Arizona center Christian Koloko (35) celebrates after Arizona beat TCU 85-80 in overtime in a second-round NCAA college basketball tournament game, Sunday, March 20, 2022, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

Arizona to play Houston in the Sweet 16

In a battle between cats, the Houston Cougars and Arizona Wildcats will scratch and claw when they meet Thursday in their Sweet 16 matchup.

The Cougars (31-5) come in as the No. 5 seed while the Wildcats (33-3) will look to flex their No. 1 seeding.

Tipoff is slated for 9:59 P.M. at the AT&T Center in San Antonio.

Surviving an overtime thriller against an underdog TCU team in their last round, the Wildcats must improve their play if they wish to reach the Elite 8.

They will be up against a Houston team who is coming off a blistering win against the Illinois Fighting Illini.

In a 68-53 thrashing, the Cougars’ defensive prowess was on full display holding Illinois to just 34% shooting.

This Arizona squad is more offensively orientated, but it cannot repeat the same performance from the last round.

With a stingy defense going up against an explosive offense, we can expect a competitive match when the ball tips off Thursday.

Houston’s Defense too Much?

Houston will look to slow the tempo of the game in favor of its elite defense.

Owning the 316th slowest pace in the country, the Cougars should cause fits for an Arizona team who loves to push the pace.

The Wildcats have the 20th fastest pace in the country as they love to get out on the break.

Limiting fast break opportunities will be essential for a Cougars team that prefers half court basketball.

While Arizona has the third highest field goal percentage in the nation at 49.6%, Houston is the third ranked defensive team in the country.

Arizona gets a lot of good looks on the break and Houston excels at limiting these chances.

Houston has held the opposition to just 40% shooting in the tournament and 25% from three.

On top of holding their opponents to low volume shooting, the Cougars are only allowing 60.5 PPG this tournament.

There is no doubt that Houston will focus on shutting down Arizona’s potent offense.

Arizona Offensive Explosion on the way?

While the Cougars have one of the best defenses in the nation, is it enough for an Arizona offense that has been lethal all year?

The Wildcats are able to put up so many points thanks to efficient shooting and great passing.

Leading the nation in assists per game, the Wildcats ball movement is a pivotal aspect of their offensive identity.

Arizona will lean on its ability to shift the defense to find open looks in space.

Also, being the No. 2 ranked rebounding team will create more scoring opportunities.

After securing a defensive rebound, the Wildcats will look to run preventing a scary Houston defense from setting up on their end.

If they could catch Houston’s defense off guard, Arizona should have no problem with finding easy buckets.

Getting buckets early and often will be essential for a young and inexperienced Wildcats team looking to advance to the Elite 8.

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