Arizona Wildcats vs. Alabama Crimson Tide Pick & Prediction DECEMBER 20th 2023

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No. 4 Arizona will try to bounce back from its first loss of the season when it opposes Alabama on Wednesday night to cap the daylong action at Jerry Colangelo’s Hall of Fame Series in Phoenix.

The Wildcats (8-1) were knocked out of a two-week run at No. 1 when they fell to then-No. 3 Purdue 92-84 on Saturday in Indianapolis. A week earlier, the Boilermakers, who rose to the top of the polls this week, defeated the Crimson Tide (6-4) in Toronto by an almost identical score, 92-86.

Arizona fell victim to the hot shooting of Purdue guards Fletcher Loyer and Braden Smith, who combined for 53 points, making 20 of 33 shots from the field, including 9 of 16 from 3-point range. And, of course, All-America center Zach Edey got his (22 points, nine rebounds).

The Wildcats fell behind by 15 in the second half before battling back to within four on multiple occasions.

“I think the character of our program is strong and I think our guys dug in and fought back and I was really proud they gave us a chance,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said. “I think this is going to go a long way to really help with our program.”

While Arizona remains in the national top 10 in adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency, according to kenpom.com, Alabama is making its mark only on the offensive end. The Crimson Tide were No. 1 in adjusted offensive efficiency through Monday’s games.

Alabama’s Mark Sears (54 points in the past two outings) is averaging 21.2 points per game and shooting 48.1 percent (26 of 54) from behind the 3-point arc. Aaron Estrada is at 14.4 points per game, followed by Grant Nelson (13.6 ppg) for a Crimson Tide team that is shooting 49.0 percent from the floor.

Alabama comes into the Wednesday matchup at Footprint Center, the home of the Phoenix Suns, on a two-game skid. The Tide followed the loss to Purdue with an 85-82 defeat at then-No. 8 Creighton on Saturday. Arizona will be Alabama’s third consecutive top 10 foe, all away from home.

Coach Nate Oats is hoping for a better long-range shooting performance after his team made just 4 of 22 3-point attempts vs. Creighton.

“We didn’t shoot it great and they had a large part in that,” Oats said. “We have got to do a better job defensively, and our bigs have to guard without fouling because that is two games in a row where Nick (Pringle) and Mohamed (Wague) foul out and they combined for just 30 minutes.

“We played well in stretches, but we have to figure out how to win a close game against a good team.”

Those two 6-foot-10 players, plus 6-11 Grant Nelson, have the size to go against a big Arizona frontline, anchored by 7-footer Oumar Ballo. The Wildcats’ Keshad Johnson is an active power forward with an inside-outside game. He is averaging 13.9 points and is coming off a 24-point effort against Purdue.

Johnson and Caleb Love (15.8 points per game, 29 vs. Purdue) lead a usually balanced Wildcats attack in what should be an entertaining matchup of two of the fastest-paced teams in the country.

“I’m excited,” Lloyd said. “I love this team we have.”

–Field Level Media

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