Alabama vs Arizona Preview and Prediction
Alabama vs Arizona Preview
The Arizona Wildcats will host a major-conference opponent for the first time this season on Saturday when they take the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Arizona (6-3) has won three straight since its three-game skid in the Bahamas, while Alabama is coming off a 68-64 win over Rhode Island.
Saturday’s game (8 p.m. MST, ESPN2) is Alabama’s first true road game.
Arizona was listed as 7.5-point favorites as this was published, and KenPom projects the Wildcats will win 78-71 with a 74 percent win probability.
Freshman center Deandre Ayton averages 19.6 points and a team-high 11.2 rebounds for Arizona, which followed a 25-point loss to Purdue with a 35-point home win over Long Beach State and resume-building road victories over UNLV and No. 9 Texas A&M. “I think these last two games our guys have a much better understanding of what it takes to win, especially on the road against good teams,” coach Sean Miller told reporters. “Our effort is good, our practices have been good.” The Wildcats will be tested by Alabama and star point guard Collin Sexton, who averages a team-high 20.8 points but was limited to 17 minutes in Wednesday’s victory over Rhode Island due to an eye injury. The 6-3 freshman expects to be available Saturday as Alabama heads into its first true road contest of the season.
For Alabama it will go as far as Sexton will take them. He does it all for the Tide and he could be one of, if not the quickest player on the court in all of college basketball this season.
“One of the things that he thrives in doing is he uses ball screens and makes his teammates better,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said. “He’s a really good passer, but that’s where he draws a lot of fouls. He’s also tremendous in transition. Those two things don’t fall on the guy guarding him, it falls on the team. Everybody has to get back. On ball screen defense if your man sets that screen, you’ve gotta be responsible and stop the ball and do a great job.”
Besides Sexton, forward Braxton Key, an SEC All-Freshman Team selection last year will be relied on heavily when he actually suits up. He has yet to play due to preseason knee surgery but could make his season debut as soon as Saturday. He practiced in full this week leading up to the game. The 6-foot-8 forward led Alabama in scoring last season, averaging 12.0 points per game, scoring at all three levels of the court.
Sophomore guard Rawle Alkins is expected to debut for the Wildcats on Saturday in a limited role off the bench.
Miller expects Alkins, who averaged 10.9 points per game last season, to become Arizona’s third scoring option alongside Deandre Ayton and Allonzo Trier, but tempered the immediate expectations for him since he is just coming back from a broken foot.
“I think his role will progress as will his production and I think the hope for us here when we get after Christmas and he’s been with us in both games and practicing regularly that he’ll be able to hit his stride early in conference play as opposed to two or three weeks into conference play if we weren’t able to get him back now,” Miller said.
Only one player in Alabama’s rotation is taller than 6-foot-9 (Daniel Giddens) which could present matchup issues for both teams. Arizona might be too big for Alabama to defend, but Alabama might be too quick for Arizona to defend.
“They’re physical, they’re big. They take up a lot of space,” Johnson said of Arizona’s frontcourt. “Our bigs have to get to their spots. We have to have proper spacing, we have to finish inside, and we have to do a better job of playing defense.”
With their size advantage I like Arizona to win the game, but with the line hovering around double-digits, I would take Alabama plus the points.
LINE: -10 Arizona
Arizona 88 Alabama 81
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