Arizona Wildcats vs. Wisconsin Badgers Pick & Prediction DECEMBER 9th 2023


Arizona will play its first game in nearly a decade as the No. 1 team in the nation on Saturday in Tucson, Ariz., facing a 23rd-ranked Wisconsin squad that has already toppled giants.

The Wildcats (7-0) surged to the top of the rankings on the strength of victories at then-No. 2 Duke and against then-No. 21 Michigan State on a neutral court. Arizona has otherwise routed five teams from outside the power conferences, averaging 93.4 points per game overall and shooting 50.6 percent from the field.

“I think we’ve got to get comfortable being in this position,” Arizona third-year coach Tommy Lloyd said about his program being No. 1 in the Associated Press rankings for the first time since the week of Jan. 27, 2014.

“We’re not going to get big heads or make it too big of a deal, but when I came to this program, my dream was to make it one of the best in the country. And if you’re one of the best in the country, you’re going to stumble into being No. 1 once in a while. So — you know what? — handle it. That’ll be the message.”

Arizona certainly looks as complete as any team in the country, with athleticism, size, depth, balance, experience and defense. All five starters average double-digit scoring, led by North Carolina transfer Caleb Love at 13.3 points per game. Backup 7-foot-2 center Motiejus Krivas just misses the double-digit mark at 9.9 points per contest.

Likewise, Wisconsin (7-2) is a well-balanced team that has victories over then-No. 24 Virginia, then-No. 3 Marquette and Michigan State. The Badgers went on the road to beat the Spartans 70-57 on Tuesday in their Big Ten opener.

“We’re better than we were a year ago,” said Wisconsin coach Greg Gard, whose team was 20-15 last season and failed to advance to the NCAA Tournament. “We’re deeper and more experienced. I didn’t have anyone leave last year’s team. I didn’t graduate anybody, so that helps as much as anything.”

AJ Storr leads four Badgers in double-figure scoring at 14.2 points per game. He scored 22 points and made 4 of 6 3-point attempts against Michigan State.

Badgers 7-footer Steven Crowl (12.2 points, 7.7 rebounds per game) will battle Wildcats 7-footer Oumar Ballo (12.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg) and Krivas.

Wisconsin ranked in the national top 22 in adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency through Thursday, according to Arizona was in the top 13 in both areas.

The one major difference is tempo.

Saturday’s matchup will be clash of styles. Arizona plays at one of the nation’s fastest paces, loving to turn defense into fastbreaks, while Wisconsin is a patient outfit that makes opponents defend for the entirety of the shot clock.

Will the Wildcats be able to run? Can the Badgers rebound well on the offensive end while still getting back?

“I think they’re really smart, really well-coached,” Lloyd said of the Badgers. “They have multiple ways they can attack you on the offensive end of the floor. They play in the Big Ten, which is a heck of a conference. They are definitely battle-tested and experienced, and we’re looking forward to playing a really good team.”

The programs have a limited but significant history, with Wisconsin leading 5-2, including winning Elite Eight showdowns in 2014 and 2015, eliminating two of Sean Miller’s best teams at Arizona.

–Field Level Media

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