Washington State Cougars vs. Arizona Wildcats – NCAAB, February 25, 2021

By Dean McHugh in College Basketball
| February 25, 2021 9:16 am PDT

Washington State takes on Arizona in the battle of the big cats tonight. Who will be tamed, and who will roar their way to victory? The Cougars have a chance of catching the Wildcats in the Pacific 12 standings, but they have to win here tonight, or that chance will be dashed. There is a chance that there might be some fans allowed into the game tonight for the first time this season, which could impact the game.

It certainly won’t be easy as they have only beaten them once in their previous 17 attempts. However, they did push them mightily close when they last met at the beginning of the year. The Cougars did most things well that night except win, as they narrowly lost out in double overtime.

Given the Wildcat’s dominance of this fixture, it is no surprise to see that they have a superior scoring average over the Cougars in their previous ten meetings. That margin is 16 points which have primarily been down to slow starts by the Cougars. They have trailed by an average of nine points at halftime, so they must start much faster tonight.

Here is my Cougars vs. Wildcats betting preview.

Cougars vs. Wildcats Odds

Cougars +8.5-110
Wildcats -8.5-110
Cougars To Win+330
Wildcats To Win-435
Over 138.5 Points-110
Under 138.5 Points-110 

Although the Wildcats have a superior record against the Cougars, I didn’t imagine that the spread would be quite so big tonight. Especially when you take into account the close matchup they had last month. The last time they met, the spread was identical to tonight, and look what happened then. The Cougars got to within nine of the team top of the Pacific 12, USC, recently. They should therefore be confident of winning with the handicap here.

Cougars News

The Cougars are trying to finish the season off strong, and they are doing a decent job of it, having won their previous two matches. This includes a decent overtime win last time out against Stanford. The obvious concern is how much that game took out of them as it took three periods of overtime to separate the teams.

They haven’t spent a great deal of time on the road this season, and that’s probably a good thing as they have a negative record of 3-5 from their eight games. However, two of those victories have come in their previous three road trips, and one of them was against third-place Oregon. They did let themselves down the following night by losing a close game to Oregon State.

Here are the latest betting trends for Washington State:

Against The Spread

  • Washington State is 6-2-1 in their last nine games.
  • They have only won three of the previous 17 games against tonight’s opponents.
  • The Cougars have won four of their last six matches played on a Thursday.

Points Total

  • Six of their previous seven games have gone over the betting total.
  • Only two of their last 11 games on the road have failed to go over the points total.

The Cougars have lacked bite in attack this season which has predominantly been down to a low field goal percentage of 41%. Thankfully for them, their rebounding has been good and has got them out of jail on many occasions this season.

They are averaging only 69 points per game which is the third-lowest average in the conference. You certainly wouldn’t have guessed that they have made the second-highest number of three-pointers in the Pacific 12 this season.

The Cougars don’t pass the ball well and make many turnovers, and therefore they try not to pass too often if they can help it. They like to rely on taking their shots early before their opponent’s defense is set. This is one of the main reasons why they have scored so many three-pointers this season.

Their defense is reliable, and they have marked their opponents very well, covering all of the court most nights. If they can continue that tonight, they will have every chance of coming away with the victory as they have won all ten games when they have restricted their opponents to 62 points or less.

They are aggressive in their approach, and they don’t mind mixing things up with anyone.

However, they haven’t defended quite so well on the road this season and have conceded five more points per game on average.

Isaac Bonton not only leads the way by scoring the most points for his team, but he has also shown that he is a dedicated team player with the number of assists and steals he has made. Here he is talking after the last time these two teams met. Although Bonton is a doubt to start tonight as he is nursing an ankle injury.

Efe Abogidi has won most of the Cougars’ aerial battles this season as he leads in rebounds and blocks. He has certainly racked up some air miles, having made his way to Washington State by way of Nigeria and Australia.

As well as Bonton, the Cougars will also miss Miller and Koulibaly tonight. Rapp is also a doubt as he recovers from a recent knee injury.

Wildcats News

The Wildcats have had a stuttering end to the season, having only picked up three wins in their previous eight games. Although they had a huge win over USC, who top the conference, only days ago, they should have plenty of confidence tonight. The win also ended the Trojan’s seven-game win streak.

Arizona has an excellent record at home, having won ten of their 14 home fixtures this season. However, the four losses came in their previous seven home games, which is slightly a concern. Three of them did come against the top three teams in the conference, so I guess they can be excused.

Here are the latest betting trends for Arizona:

Against The Spread

  • They have only won two of their last six matches.
  • Arizona is 2-7 in their previous nine games played in February.
  • The Wildcats have lost their last five games played on a Thursday.

Points Total

  • Seven of their previous nine games have gone under the betting total.
  • The total has gone under in eight of their last 12 matches against the Cougars.
  • All of their previous five home games have gone under the points total.

Other Pointers

  • The Wildcats have won 15 of the last 20 matches that they entered as the betting favorite.

The Wildcats have a great offense that is lethal from three-point range. They aren’t always brilliant from inside the D, but they are a hell of a lot better than Washington State.

They are currently averaging 76 points per game which is the highest in the conference.

The Wildcats pass the ball very well and tend to sucker their opponents in and draw a high number of fouls which the Cougars will have to be wary of, given they usually make quite a few fouls themselves.

Their defense has been decent, and above-average you would have to say. They haven’t marked up amazingly, but they prefer to focus on setting themselves and putting their players in the best positions to make many defensive rebounds. That does tend to work until you come up against a sharp-shooting offense. It also means that they can make a high number of blocks each game which they are doing.

The Wildcats defense could be their key to victory as they are unbeaten in 14 games when they have held their opponents to a field goal percentage of 43% or less. The Cougars are shooting at 41% this season, so they will have to up their game to win tonight.

They have a point per game difference of 7.5, which, if upheld, would see them fall slightly short of the handicap target tonight.

Most of the Wildcat’s work is either scored or made by James Akinjo. He has been brilliant this season, and he enjoyed playing against the Cougars recently. He scored 18 points, had five rebounds, six assists, and three steals.

Arizona has two players absent tonight, as Baker Junior and Batcho are both out with long-term injuries.

Cougars vs. Wildcats Pick

Pick
  • Over 138.5 Points
    -110

I believe the Wildcats will maintain their good record over the Cougars tonight, but I’m not quite sure if they will cover the spread or not, so I won’t risk it. However, I will back their attack to prevail and put-up lots of points tonight. The two teams have a combined point total of 145 this season and a combined total of 144 in their previous ten meetings. Therefore, the figures are relatively consistent, and I will pick over the points total this evening.

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