Under normal circumstances, Saturday's game between Arizona and Washington would be an important game for the Wildcats' NCAA Tournament hopes as they enter the weekend ranked No. 39 in the NET. But with the program announcing a self-imposed postseason ban earlier this season, there won't be any tournament talk on Saturday.
However, this game will offer a late-season glimpse at what could be one of the Pac-12's most exciting teams next season. With newcomers representing Arizona's top-five scorers this year, the Wildcats (16-8, 10-8 Pac-12) have gelled nicely and are building toward what could be a great 2021-22 season.
First, they are trying to close the 2020-21 season strong and can reach three straight victories by handling business against a struggling Washington team (5-19, 4-15) that will be playing its final scheduled game before it starts the Pac-12 Tournament on March 10. The Wildcats won the first meeting 80-53 on Dec. 31, but the Huskies did show in a January win over Colorado that they are capable of upsetting teams from the league's upper-tier.
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- When: Saturday, 3 p.m. ET
- Where: McKale Center in Tuscon, Arizona
- TV: CBS | Live stream: CBSSports.com, CBS Sports App (Free)
- OTT: CBS Sports App (Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast)
Arizona: It's difficult to predict in today's transfer-happy era just how much a school's roster will change from season to season. But there's reason for optimism that the Wildcats could return most of their production from this team and make a run at the Pac-12 title next season. Though the Wildcats could receive an unfavorable ruling from the IARP process that continues to hinder their program moving forward, there is some talent in the program now and a trio of three-star prospects on the way to provide hope. It will be interesting to see what sort of NBA Draft buzz 6-foot-7 freshmen guard Bennedict Mathurin gathers in the months ahead, and he could help his cause with a strong finish to the season against Washington and against Oregon on Monday in Arizona's final game.
Washington: UW athletic director Jen Cohen told the Seattle Times earlier this month that Hopkins' job is "absolutely not" in jeopardy. Receiving that endorsement is about the only thing that's gone well for Hopkins over the last two seasons. Even with 2020 first-round draft picks Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels on the roster last season, the Huskies inexplicably finished last in the Pac-12 after winning the league title in 2019. It's only gotten worse this season with Stewart and McDaniels gone. Aside from the upset win over Colorado on Jan. 20, Washington's four other victories have come against teams that won't sniff the NCAA Tournament this season.
Game prediction, pick
Arizona won the first meeting by 27 points at Washington on Dec. 31. What's changed since then? Washington is still awful and Arizona has only gotten better. The Wildcats' interest in the season may be waning amid the reality of a self-imposed postseason ban, but they shouldn't have any trouble here. Prediction: Arizona 79, Washington 60
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