Illinois center Kofi Cockburn (21) walks on the court during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Iowa, Monday, Dec. 6, 2021, in Iowa City, Iowa. Illinois won 87-83. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The No. 11 Arizona Wildcats (8-0) — who are holding opposing teams to just 34.7% shooting from the field this year — aim to remain unbeaten against the Illinois Fighting Illini (7-2) Saturday at the State Farm Center. Tip-off is at 5pm ET on FOX.

Arizona enters the contest as road favorites according to oddsmakers and KenPom predicts the Wildcats will win a close one, 76-74.

Team Moneyline Spread Total
Arizona Wildcats -122 -1.5 (-110) O 151.5 (-110)
Illinois Fighting Illini +102 +1.5 (-110) U 151.5 (-110)

Odds from FanDuel as of December 10th.

Recent Results

UA’s leading scorer, Bennedict Mathurin, scored a game-high 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the 29-point demolition of the Wyoming Cowboys. First-year head coach Tommy Lloyd’s squad shot 53%, converted 11 3-pointers and had 23 assists for its sixth win of at least 25 points this season.

Meantime, Kofi Cockburn scored 17 and snagged a career-high 18 boards for Brad Underwood’s team in a four-point victory over the Hawkeyes. The Fighting Illini converted 24-of-28 from the foul line and outrebounded Iowa 52-23.

Now, we have a tantalizing matchup of two hot teams rated in the top-15 overall by KenPom.

Arizona Wildcats Outlook

So far, so good for first-year head coach Lloyd in Tucson. The longtime Gonzaga assistant — who served as an assistant to future Hall of Fame coach Mark Few for 20 years — has the Wildcats playing a similar brand of basketball to the one Lloyd helped build in Spokane.

The 2021-22 UA squad plays with an up-tempo, free-flowing style that was on display Wednesday.

Arizona — rated ninth overall by KenPom — is the national scoring leader, averaging 91.6 points per game and also leads the country in assists per game with 23.0. The Wildcats are second in rebounding per game, pulling down 44.6 boards. It doesn’t get much more statistically dominant than that.

Mathurin is one of four players averaging in double-figures for UA, leading the way with a 17.0 per game clip. Not far behind him is fellow sophomore and 6-foot-11 Azoulas Tubelis, who’s putting up 15.8 per contest. Christian Koloko (14.4) and Kerr Kriisa (11.0) round out the quarter of international standouts.

Arizona has scored at least 80 points in all eight of its games far — and at least 90 five times — while knocking off a pair of Elite 8 teams from the 2021 NCAA Tournament (Michigan and Oregon State) already. This is a formidable bunch that really doesn’t have a weakness.

Illinois Fighting Illini Outlook

If there is kryptonite to this apparent sleeper-super team, it could be Cockburn. There’s no other true center in college basketball who’s as big and bad and unstoppable as the 7-foot, 285-pound junior averaging 22.8 points and 11.8 rebounds per game.

Of course, Rutgers knocked off Edey, Williams and the rest of their Purdue teammates Thursday in a potentially season-saving 70-68 win. Alas, those individual numbers are hard to ignore.

Like ‘Zona, Underwood’s club is riding a winning streak of its own. Illinois has won five straight, including victories over Kansas State, Notre Dame and those two Big Ten W’s against the Scarlet Knights and Hawkeyes. The Fighting Illini is the 15th-rated team overall by KenPom and is exceptional on both ends, rated 14th if offensive adjusted efficiency and 28th in defensive adjusted efficiency.

The Pick

Arizona’s signature win so far this season was an 80-62 thrashing of Michigan three weeks ago. Hunter Dickinson, another highly-skilled Big Ten big man, was held to just 11 points and seven rebounds on just 4-of-10 shooting. The Wildcats outrebounded the Wolverines 34-29 and had 23 assists, compared to only seven for UM.

If the ‘Cats can even approach those numbers in Champaign, they should come away with the victory. And while there may be an urge to slightly fade Illinois on the heels of two conference wins — with softer competition on the horizon prior to Big Ten play resuming Jan. 2 — the set up makes the Wildcats even more enticing.

But I’m hesitant to go all-in on UA just yet. Both teams score. That’s why the over feels like the safer play here.

Pick: Over 151.5 (-110)





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