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    No. 21 Washington State vs. No. 4 Arizona Pac-12 basketball odds: Cougars ranked for first time in 16 years, can take conference lead

    First place is on the line in the Pac-12 on Thursday night when No. 21 Washington State visits No. 4 Arizona.
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    One of the biggest surprises in a power conference this college basketball season has been Washington State of the Pac-12. The Cougars, who were picked to finish 10th in the league, landed at No. 21 in the new Associated Press Top 25 on Monday, their first ranking in 16 years. Tonight they play the school's biggest regular-season game since then at No. 4 Arizona for the Pac-12 lead. The Wildcats are -12.5 on the SportsLine consensus. Click here for model picks.

    At DraftKings, 58% of the tickets are on Washington State ATS but 53% of the handle is on Arizona. There's a huge double-lean on Over 151 points.

    The last time Washington State (20-6, 11-4 Pac-12) was in the AP Top 25 was the final week of the 2008 season, also the last time the school made the NCAA Tournament. Current Virginia coach Tony Bennett was the coach then. CBS Sports' Jerry Palm currently has Wazzu as a No. 7 seed in the South Region of the 2024 NCAA Tournament, opening against No. 10 Nebraska of the Big Ten.

    It's somewhat ironic that the Cougars are finally good again in what is the final year of the Pac-12. Both Washington State and Oregon State are expected to join the mid-major WCC for the immediate future. Because of that, rumors abound that Wazzu coach Kyle Smith may be leaving for a power job after this season. His buyout is only $750,000 and drops to $500,000 in April. This season will be Smith's first NCAA Tournament appearance, but he also had success at Columbia and San Francisco.

    Smith clearly can recruit as he has one of the Pac-12's top young players in redshirt freshmen Myles Rice, who was the No. 30 overall point guard nationally in the Class of 2021 out of Georgia. On Monday, Rice became the only player in Pac-12 history to win four consecutive weekly awards as Rice won his record-tying seventh Freshman of the Week Award overall. He is the only power six freshman leading his team in points per game (15.9), assists (3.7) and steals (1.7).

    Washington State's seven-game winning streak is the longest active streak by a power six team, and it is +400 to win the Pac-12 despite being just a half-game behind Arizona (-1000) and currently owning the tiebreaker. The last time the Cougars held first place in the conference this late in the season was Feb. 14, 2007. Wazzu has never won a Pac-12, Pac-10, or Pac-8 Conference title, with the last title as the 1949-50 Pacific Coast North champion.

    Wazzu upset the visiting Wildcats 73-70 on Jan. 13 behind 24 points and 13 rebounds from Isaac Jones, while Rice had 18 points, five assists, four rebounds and two steals. It marked the second straight season the Cougars beat Arizona with the Wildcats ranked in the top 10 -- Washington State won in Tucson last season when UA was No. 5. That was the Cougars' first top-five road win in school history.  

    Thursday marks just the second series meeting with both teams ranked, the other coming on Feb. 1, 2007 when the 18th-ranked Cougars knocked off the 20th-ranked Wildcats, 72-66, in Tucson.

    Arizona (20-5, 11-3) enters on a six-game winning streak, which is tied for the second-longest among power six schools. During that run, Pac-12 Player of the Year candidate Oumar Ballo is averaging 15.2 points, 12.5 rebounds and shooting 71.4% from the floor. He has posted a double-double in his last five games, the longest such streak since Deandre Ayton had five straight in 2018. Ballo is set at over/under 13.5 points and 12.5 rebounds tonight. 

    Arizona is 3-2 against ranked opponents this season and 14-6 all-time under head coach Tommy Lloyd, who got a contract extension earlier this week. The Wildcats, 45-2 at home under Lloyd, were one of the four No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament selection committee's first look last weekend. DraftKings lists them at -400 to receive a top seed.

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    Matt SeveranceSeverance Pays

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