No. 5 Utah Utes (24-9) -1, o/u 135.5 vs. No. 12 Arizona Wildcats (19-13), American Airlines Arena, Miami, FL, 7:10 p.m. Eastern
By Oracle of Predictem.com
Anytime a team makes the NCAA Tournament its a moment to celebrate. However, if youre a team in the dreaded 5-seed versus 12-seed match up, it might make you cringe.
That is, if youre the five-seed.
For years now its been these 5 vs. 12 games that have been the deal breakers in many peoples early bracket predictions. One that has most people confused and thinking twice is the contest between the Utah Utes and the Arizona Wildcats on Friday night at 7:10 p.m. Eastern.
The Wildcats were literally one of the last teams selected into the final field with a 19-13 record, as they lost five of their last six games, including a quarterfinals ousting in the Pac-10 tourney at the hands of Arizona State. On paper this team has some superstars, but theyre up and down year has many wondering which team will show up at American Airlines Arena in Miami.
Utah has been under the radar most of the year, as they shared the MWC regular season title under first year head coach Jim Boylen, and went on to win the conference tournament for the automatic bid. They rely on a stealthy defense to wear down opponents.
Normally a five-seed would be giving a few points to the 12-seed, but this game actually opened as Arizona a slim favorite -1. That line, however, has creeped back the other way, with Utah giving -1 as the favorite at many online sportsbooks With two pretty good defenses, the over/under is at a mediocre 135.5 total.
Both teams have stellar marks ATS on the year, with Utah at 19-13 and Arizona at 18-13.
Arizona has been all over the map in 2008-09. Their last two contests basically summed up their season to date. They scored 101 points in their regular season finale win over Stanford, and the very next game in the Pac-10 Tournament, scored just 56 points in a 12-point defeat against ASU.
They rely on the three-headed monster of Chase Budinger (17.9 points, 6.3 rebounds), Jordan Hill (18.1, 11) and Nic Wise (15.1 points) to get things done. These three studs average over 36 minutes per game.
Other than this, though, Arizona struggles to find any offense whatsoever. Their next leading scorer behind Wise is Jemelle Horne at 6.8 points per contest. They only go seven deep, and even then their first two off the bench arent game breakers.
Utah is somewhat in the same boat, though.
They rely on 7-foot 2-inch Australian center Luke Nevill, who had 18 points and 15 boards in the MWC championship game win against San Diego State, to carry the load. The Aussie averages 16.9 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks while shooting nearly 61% from the field.
However, as opposed to Arizona, Utah has more balance in their lineup, with three other starters in double digits in scoring and the fifth player Carlon Brown at 9.4 points. Utah does lack some depth, as evidence of their six points off the bench in their win against SDSU.
But offense isnt what Utah is all about. Theyve given up over 80 points just one time the entire season, and that was in overtime, as they hold opponents to just 64 points per game (81st in the nation) and 40.1% from the field (39th).
Utah, who can get lost in the national picture because theyre in the MWC, has a couple of quality wins this season, including a 30-point win over LSU and a win over Gonzaga.
An X-factor that fans and bettors alike need to absorb is the fact that the Utes shoot a blistering 78.2% from the free-throw line. Nevills height will definitely be a factor, as he shoots right on his teams 78% average from the charity stripe.
Bettors can seem to rely on Utah when they are slight favorites, as they are 4-0 ATS in their last four when favored by .5-6.5 points.
They also cover well on neutral sites, going 5-1 ATS in their last six.
Arizonas rich history in the NCAA Tournament also leads bettors to believe they cover well in the post-season madness. Such is the case lately, as theyre 6-2 ATS in their last eight tourney games.
The under is a huge trend for Utah. Its 4-0 in their last four neutral site games and overall, for that matter.
The under is 7-1 for Arizona in their last eight contests against the Mountain West Conference. In stark contrast, the over is 4-0 in their last four non-conference games as well.
Utah is looking to rid the spell of the 12 over 5 upset. But this is the one that seems to be the most obvious shake-up to bracketeers.
Oracles Pick: Everyone seems to be riding the Arizona bandwagon. Why is Utah getting no props whatsoever? Well, we are. The Utes will wear down Arizona and knock down free throws at the end to seal a nice first round win. Take Utah -1!