Northern Colorado vs. Arizona NCAA Basketball Betting Analysis and Free Pick

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The Arizona Wildcats celebrate. Ethan Miller/Getty Images/AFP

It’s a mismatch according to the NCAAB odds, but that’s what makes Wednesday’s David vs. Goliath matchup between the Northern Colorado Bears and the highly-ranked Arizona Wildcats all the more intriguing.

Northern Colorado Bears vs. Arizona Wildcats

Wednesday, December 15, 2021 – 9:00 PM EST at McKale Center

Considering Arizona was just outside the top 25 of both preseason polls and in the second tier of favorites on NCAA basketball future odds to win the Pac-12, it would be wrong to say the Wildcats have sneaked up on anyone. It would also be incorrect to suggest everyone thought Arizona would be off to a perfect 9-0 start in advance of the Hump Day collision with Northern Colorado.

You’ll have to listen to the ramblings of Bill Walton on the Pac-12 Network unless you have a ticket inside the Tucson gym to watch the action. Speaking of action, online betting sites are laying some extra thick 25½-point chalk on the Wildcats, with 153½-154 for the total.

Bears Taking Court for First Time in Eight Days

Northern Colorado comes into this game treading water with a record just above .500, and that is something of a surprise considering the Bears returned their top 4 scorers from last season. They sort of tailed off at the end of the 2020-21 campaign to finish with a level 11-11 record, and though the Bears were picked behind the favored trio of Weber State, Southern Utah, and Montana this season, we were expecting something better than a 6-5 record at this point.

Not that Northern Arizona was supposed to take down the likes of Texas or Colorado State, though the Bears did manage to cover both of those losses as double-digit underdogs. But losing to D-II Hawaii Hilo and San Jose State are a pair of games second-year head coach Steve Smiley would love to have back.

Smiley does have his team headed in the right direction now on a 3-game win streak, and the first two of those triumphs came during some early Big Sky Conference play. The Bears were last on the floor eight days ago hosting South Dakota, and nearly blew a 14-point second-half lead before clipping the Coyotes, 74-69. Northern Arizona missed the cover as 9½-point chalk, and the final marked the fifth consecutive ‘over’ winner.

‘Cats Have Been a Cover Machine

There are some solid coaches doing some amazing jobs out there, but Tommy Lloyd has to be the top contender for Coach of the Year honors at this time. A longtime assistant at Gonzaga, Lloyd has the Wildcats off to a perfect 9-0 start, and they’re fast becoming a friend to bettors with covers in eight of those contests.

Everyone should have taken notice when Arizona beat then-No. 4 Michigan in Las Vegas just before Thanksgiving. The Wildcats’ bandwagon picked up a few more folks this past weekend in Champaign where they rallied to beat another Big Ten contender. Arizona closed as 2½-point road chalk at BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review) and rallied from a first-half deficit for the 83-79 victory over Illinois.

Bennedict Mathurin scored a career-high 30 in the win over the Fighting Illini, his third consecutive game with 24+. The 6-6 sophomore from Canada wasn’t even on the preseason Wooden watch list, yet sits just outside the top 50 currently averaging 18.4 PPG.

NoCo’s Last Win Over Power Six Was Eight Years Ago at K-State

Wednesday’s match is the fifth between Northern Colorado and Arizona and the first in a little more than five years. The Wildcats own a 3-1 advantage in the series, the Bears’ only win coming at home in Greeley back in 1960. When the clubs met in Tucson in November 2016, Northern Colorado actually took a lead into halftime before Arizona turned on the jets for a 71-55 decision. It was an easy cover for the Bears who were getting 33 at top sportsbooks.

Northern Colorado is 0-2 against Pac-12 teams since then, both losses to Colorado and the Bears have another Pac-12 opponent on deck with a trip to Washington State this weekend. Arizona has reeled off six consecutive wins over Big Sky foes since last facing the Bears, two of those triumphs coming earlier this season against Northern Arizona and Eastern Washington. The Wildcats’ last loss to a Big Sky team was to Idaho State in 1975.

Arizona has covered three previous spreads of 25 or more points, but there’s always a chance Lloyd eases off a bit with a stretch on the schedule of 3-straight ranked opponents coming up. I’m counting on some of that with a college basketball pick on the final stopping short.

NCAAB Pick: Under 154 (-109) with GTbets (visit our GTbets Review)

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Under 154 (-109)
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*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.