Washington State leaves the Evergreen State for the last time in the regular season when they face the 12th ranked Arizona Wildcats at the McKale Center in Tucson Saturday afternoon. The Wildcats, tied for first in the conference with Oregon, will be a fierce matchup for the Cougs, who have lost seven of eight and nine of 11 games coming into Saturday's clash in the Sonoran Desert. The Cougars dropped the first meeting this season against the Wildcats, 79-65, Feb. 2 at Beasley Coliseum.
Cougars head coach Ken Bone knows that the task of helping his Cougars believe they can take down Arizona lies in getting off to a good start. Washington State came out of the gate lethargically against Arizona State Wednesday night in Tempe, and were never really in the game in the second half. Bone will look to Brock Motum, and Royce Woolridge to steady his young Cougars in the daunting din of one of college basketball's best home court advantages.
As if Saturday needed to be any more difficult for Washington State (11-16 overall, 2-12 in conference) Arizona will be buoyed up by Oregon's loss to California on Thursday. Arizona (22-4, 10-4) has a real shot at the regular season Pac-12 crown, though the Ducks hold the head to head tiebreaker against them. Washington State can expect a fired up group of Wildcats defending their home turf Saturday afternoon.
Arizona counts on the senior leadership of guard/forward combo Mark Lyons and Solomon Hill. The 'Cats like to get up and down, though they have proven that they can win games in the 50s as well. Washington State will need to be wary of turnovers that lead to easy baskets. Arizona, and their crowd, feed off of the transition game.
Las Vegas lists the Wildcats as a 15 1/2 point favorite. The perfect storm of talent, opportunity, and motivation makes me say take the 'Cats, give the points and use your winnings to rent a horse for a peaceful ride into the mountains.