College Basketball Odds, Picks, Predictions for Washington State vs. UCLA (Thursday, February 17)
Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Johnny Juzang (UCLA)
- UCLA hosts Washington State as the Bruins have lost three of their last four.
- Is there value on the Cougars, one of the unluckiest teams in the country, as heavy road underdogs?
- Our analyst breaks down the matchup and shares his best bet below.
Washington State vs. UCLA Odds
|Washington State Odds|
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
The season hasn't gone as planned for Kyle Smith's crop of transfers and Washington State as the Cougars are on the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble and fading fast after three consecutive defeats in league play.
The Cougars have an all-in weekend coming up on the road in Los Angeles, starting on Thursday night at UCLA in Pauley Pavilion. The Cougs have struggled to maintain leads when they've had them and have gone through too many scoring droughts filled with turnovers to consistently win games.
Just when it seemed like they were turning the corner, a flat showing at home against Arizona snapped a five-game winning streak, and a bad home loss to Arizona State may have popped their bubble.
UCLA is also in a bit of turmoil after three losses in four games, including a tough rivalry defeat at USC without Isaiah Mobley. Two weeks ago, the Bruins had beaten Arizona at home and were in command of the conference. But a rematch loss at Arizona was followed by losses to Arizona State and USC, and now the Bruins are in a slide.
Washington State has underperformed expectations, but they've also been pretty unlucky in their metrics this season. According to ShotQuality, the Cougars are 14-10 with their actual record, but should be closer to 17-7 based on overall quality of shots taken and allowed.
Washington State ranks 356th out of 358 in all of KenPom's luck metric, which makes sense when you consider the Cougars are just a few games above .500 but sit 43rd in KenPom's overall Adjusted Efficiency.
Injuries have played a role in the WSU underperformance too, as did the COVID-19 pause in December, but the Cougars also have fought and been competitive in every single game this season. Bart Torvik has them as the least fortunate team in the country because they are 3-9 in close games and have only lost by more than six on one occasion.
That lone double digit loss was to Arizona at home in Pullman last week, a game the Cougars shot just 25% from beyond the 3-point arc. They don't need to win this game to cover, and it would take their second biggest loss of the entire season to not cover here.
The Cougars defense is first in the Pac-12 in scoring defense and 3-point defense. They're able to turn over most teams, and they guard the mid-range, an area UCLA loves to live, effectively. Even if they can't turn over the Bruins, they should throw them out of offensive rhythm.
I came into the season much lower on UCLA than most AP voters and public sentiment, and they've regressed quite a bit in the last few games. UCLA is undeniably a very good team, but whether or not they're among the nation's elite has been proven as a resounding no in the last four games.
Arizona almost gave the game away, but the Wildcats controlled large stretches of that contest. Arizona State was a bad loss, and USC without Mobley wasn't much better.
UCLA relies heavily on the midrange shots that can sustain an offense, but it's hard to imagine those shots are the fulcrum and crux of the game plan at that end of the floor. The Bruins have struggled with length this season, which Washington State has plenty of on the frontline.
The Bruins could exploit the Cougars on the offensive glass, but it's not something that they really prioritize overall. They're an above average rebounding team at both ends of the floor, but Washington State has taken steps forward on the glass, and UCLA isn't a top 50 offensive rebounding unit.
ShotQuality has UCLA around 20th in overall Adjusted Efficiency, which I think is a more accurate reflection of them than the 13th ranking that KenPom currently shows. They don't shoot 3s well at all, and Washington State can take away the midrange.
Unless UCLA is able to get to the rim often and score there, it's hard to see them getting separation. This is the only true matchup edge this offense has against Washington State.
Washington State vs. UCLA Betting Pick
I circled this spot as soon as the Cougars lost by 12 at home against Arizona as the next all-in spot for Washington State. As much as they've struggled this season to close out games, the Cougars have battled in every game.
They've shown no signs of quit and match up pretty well to stop the UCLA midrange offense, make some perimeter jump shots and compete on the offensive glass to keep this game competitive. For a team that has nine losses by six or fewer points, I'm expecting the Cougars to come up short of the road upset against a motivated UCLA.
But I think the Cougars' pressure defense and jump shooting offensively will keep them in this game on the road to give UCLA all it can handle.