2020 Arizona Wildcats NCAA Basketball National Championship Odds with Predictions
It is really a bit of a miracle that the Wildcats are where they are. The team went just 17-15 last year, and their 8-10 record in the Pac-12 was their worst in 36 years. On top of that, the drama around the team was intense. They have been the subject of an FBI investigation into shady recruiting. Head coach Sean Miller has kept his job, but hasn't been given any extensions, and if he were fired at any time for his past sins it would be a very long way from shocking. They have seen turnover on the coaching staff and lost eight players heading into last season. It seemed like a once-proud program that could crash into the depths of despair. But, somehow, they pulled in the sixth-rated recruiting class in the country this past year, have reloaded, and have a chance to put a very rough stretch behind them. Miracles can happen, But after all that has happened off the court over the last few years in Arizona, you have to wonder just how clean the miracles are.
Arizona Wildcats Additions/Losses
The team has lost some key players from this roster. Guard Justin Coleman and forward Ryan Luther both graduated after joining the team as grad transfers from Samford and Pittsburgh, respectively. Guard Emmanuel Akot, a former five-star recruit who was in the same class as No. 1 overall draft pick Deandre Ayton, quit the team and eventually transferred to Boise State. And guard Brandon Randolph declared for the draft, though it surprised no one except perhaps himself that he wasn't selected. So, they are short of experience, They return two guys in Chase Jeter and Brandon Williams who started 47 games between them last year, but the rest of the roster had only a combined 20 starts.
Jeter had a solid enough but not outstanding year last year after transferring from Duke. He struggled with back injuries, though, and had never started before. With more experience and, hopefully, better health, he'll be in a bigger role. He needs to. The only other established guy up front is Ira Lee, who started five games last year and appeared in 31. He took a big leap forward from his first year to his second and will need to do so again. Behind those two are just possibilities. Stone Gettings transferred from Cornell last year at Christmas time and worked out with the team the rest of the year. He'll see a lot of playing time. And so will power forward Zeke Nnaji, a Top 40 recruit this year who is the third ranked member of this strong recruiting class. He has a body that should be ready to produce right away. The team will have to be much more patient with the other new recruit up front. Christian Koloko is a seven-foot center, and you can't have too many of those. But he weighs in at just 195 pounds, so he has a lot of work to do in the weight room before he can be a real factor. It seems as if they will play him when they can instead of redshirting him, though.
The backcourt is where the youth could really shine - at least the team hopes it will. Point guard Nico Mannion was the top player at his position in the country, and wing Josh Green is a Top 15 recruit as well. Both are going to start right away, and the ceiling for both is obviously very high. Young point guards have been so good in so many spots in recent years that it is easy to believe in Mannion. They have senior shooting guard Dylan Smith, who started 15 games last year, back. And they added grad transfer Max Hazzard from UC-Irvine. He's a big shooter and was very good when the Anteaters won a tournament game last year.
Arizona Wildcats Schedule
The schedule starts off really soft but toughens up later in nonconference play. They don't play a particularly tough game well into December, including their early-season tournament - the weak Wooden Legacy. They should be unbeaten heading into their first big test at Baylor on December 7 . A week later they host Gonzaga in what could be the toughest game they play all year. And they close out nonconference play by playing St. John's in San Francisco. So, two question mark games and a whole lot of wins are wait stands between them and the Pac-12 season.
Arizona Wildcats Futures Odds and Trends
The Wildcats are the second choice in what seems to be a three-team race to win the Pac-12. They are at +250, just behind Oregon at +200 , and ahead of Washington at +375. They also trail Oregon, and 13 other teams, in the hunt for the national title. The Ducks are at +2800, and Arizona is at +3300. The regular season win total sits at 21.5.
The Wildcats went just 17-15 last year, and they created some long-term profits for pessimists - they went 13-18-1 ATS on the season. They went over the total 14 times and under 18, so there were profits to be had there as well.
Arizona Wildcats Predictions
It all comes down to the youngsters. They are going to need Mannion and Green to be stars right away, and the more they get from Nnaji the better. If those three can lead the way, then this could be a team that could easily justify their 21st ranking and which could give Oregon a good run for the conference crown. But if the three don't come together, can't stay healthy, or wear down as the season goes along, then things could get rough. They have a virtual preseason for most of a month, and that really helps them as they try to develop guys on the fly. I would be optimistic enough to take the over on the regular season win total, but I don't expect to be writing them deep in my bracket when March rolls around.
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