UTEP MINERS (1-0)
at ARIZONA WILDCATS (1-0)
Tip-off: Thursday, 10:00 p.m. ET
Line: Arizona -8.5, Total: 127.5
A new-look Arizona team, ranked No. 12 in the nation, will be tested at home Thursday night when they host a solid, veteran UTEP squad.
The Wildcats are breaking in a number of new faces around veterans Solomon Hill and Nick Johnson, starting two freshmen and a transfer. It resulted in a shaky opener against Charleston Southern, an 82-73 win that was as close as one point midway through the second half. UTEP, meanwhile, opened the season against an Oral Roberts team expected to be one of the better small schools in the nation and pulled away in the second half of a 69-49 win. Arizona is 32-4 SU at home in the past three seasons, holding visitors to less than 60 points per game in the 2011-12 season.
Can the young Wildcats cover the spread? For the answer, connect to College Basketball Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. Since Tuesday, the StatFox experts are a collective 10-2-1 ATS (83%) on Best Bets with the only losses coming in games where two experts disagreed. For the season, the group is a collective 23-14-2 ATS (62%) on Best Bets, with all four experts at 57% ATS or better. StatFox Dave is 5-0 ATS Best Bets since Monday, while StatFox Gary is 5-1 ATS in this three-day span.
Both Hill (14 points, five rebounds) and Johnson (12 points, six assists) were solid in the opening win over Charleston Southern. But it was Mark Lyons, a transfer from Xavier, who put them over the top. After missing all three of his shots in the first half, Lyons scored 15 of his 17 in the final 20 minutes. The Wildcats got little from their two starting freshmen. C Kaleb Tarczewski proved to be extremely raw, finishing with just four points and four rebounds in 16 minutes. F Grant Jerrett was a complete non-factor, tallying only three points and three rebounds in 20 minutes. F Brandon Ashley was the one bright spot in their highly touted recruiting class, scoring 12 points and getting to the line frequently (8-for-12 FT) to go along with eight boards in 24 minutes off the bench.
UTEP brings back six of its top seven players from last year. The Miners are led by C John Bohannon, a Conference-USA Player of the Year candidate who went for 17 points in their season-opening win over Oral Roberts. The Minersí one weakness is outside shooting. While they find success in the paint, they hit just 34.0% of their threes last year, and went just 1-for-7 in the season opener.