Pac-12 Odds, Third State of Conference Betting Report: How Will UCLA vs. Arizona Turn Out?
Photo by Soobum Im/Getty Images. Pictured: Azuolas Tubelis (Arizona)
Can the Wildcats get back on track at home?
For a preview and more, read the next installment of my State of the Pac-12 Betting Report.
UCLA vs. Arizona
UCLA enters this week at 7-0 in conference and alone in first place.
Arizona’s recent losses puts it at 4-3 and in fifth place. Arizona has lost six straight at Oregon, so that was a loss that I expected, though not by 19 points. The loss at home to Washington State is particularly damning and makes this a huge game for Arizona.
A loss to UCLA would put Arizona four games back of the Bruins with a trip to Westwood still on the docket. Stranger things have happened, but a Pac-12 regular season title would be highly unlikely.
This game will also be important for NCAA tournament seeding.
The Bracket Matrix has both UCLA and Arizona as No. 2 seeds at the moment.
UCLA is No. 6 in the NCAA NET Rankings while Arizona is No. 12. However, UCLA is 3-2 in Quad 1 games, which trails every team ranked ahead of it. The Bruins’ path to a one seed will include a regular-season sweep of Arizona.
In terms of efficiency, this matchup will pit Arizona’s No. 7 offense against UCLA’s No. 4 defense.
UCLA has Adem Bona down low, but Arizona will have to capitalize on its size advantage. Forward Azuolas Tubelis and center Oumar Ballo are averaging 36.7 points and 16.3 rebounds combined.
When UCLA comes with double teams, Arizona must down knock shots. It’s shooting just 26.1% from 3 in conference play.
Arizona’s recent shooting struggles have not been a good combination with its defense. Arizona is 88th in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency and eighth in conference-only games.
UCLA’s offense ranks 15th nationally (and first in conference-only games) in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency. However, the Bruins have yet to crack 75 points in conference play.
KenPom currently projects a three-point UCLA win. It’s often said that role players perform better at home. If it can knock down shots, I like Arizona’s chances.
Arizona should be the hungrier team given the stakes, so I would back the Wildcats +3 at home if that’s the opening line.
Surging Sun Devils
Before UCLA visits Arizona on Saturday, it will face Arizona State on Thursday night in Tempe. It will run into a confident Arizona State team.
The Sun Devils are coming off a road sweep at Oregon and Oregon State. They led by as many as 29 points before beating the Ducks 90-73 last Thursday. Arizona State trailed Oregon State by 13 in the first half before rallying for a 74-69 victory.
Arizona State has won four straight and is 15-3 overall and 6-1 in conference. The Sun Devils are up to No. 40 in the NET Rankings and are a projected 10 seed by The Bracket Matrix.
However, they will have bigger aspirations if they beat UCLA on Thursday. A win would tie Arizona State atop the Pac-12 standings with UCLA.
It could be a game where points are at a premium, pitting UCLA’s defense against Arizona State’s 35th-ranked defense. The under has hit in UCLA’s last seven games and in eight of 10 overall. KenPom projects a total of 134 points, and I would take the under at that number.
After UCLA, Arizona State gets USC at home, the road set vs. the Washington schools and the return trip from the Oregon schools in Tempe.
Arizona State should be able to continue stringing wins together and playing itself firmly into the NCAA tournament field.
Can USC Survive Upcoming Stretch?
USC started off slow against UCLA before holding the Bruins to 16 points in the second half. It lost 60-58, nearly winning outright as a 12.5-point underdog.
Almost beating their rival won’t make the Trojans feel better, but it did get them back on track.
USC took care of business, beating Colorado and Utah at home last week.
USC is now 13-5 overall and 5-2 in the Pac-12. However, now the schedule gets tougher. This week, it’s Arizona and Arizona State before returning home to face UCLA next week.
These are critical games because they are USC’s three best chances at improving its NCAA tournament resume. USC is currently on the wrong side of the bubble, so going at least 2-1 is important because it guarantees a victory over Arizona or UCLA.
However, USC cannot afford to go 0-3. It would be precarious to its NCAA tournament hopes and likely would leave the Trojans dependent on a deep run in the Pac-12 tournament.
Can Utah Stem the Tide?
After a 5-0 start in conference, Utah has lost three to Oregon, UCLA and USC. Utah did not have Branden Carlson against UCLA, and Oregon just has its number. The Utes have now lost 22 of the past 24 games against Oregon.
Utah’s defense has remained strong, ranking 23rd nationally in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency and third in the conference.
However, Utah is 10th in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency in conference play and has fallen to 123rd nationally. The Utes are averaging just 55 points per game during this losing streak.
The loss to UCLA — along with the losing streak — has put a dent into Utah’s bid as a dark horse to win the regular season title. However, it’s projected to win six of its next seven games, beginning with Washington and Washington State this week.
That would put the Utes at 18-8 overall and 11-4 in conference, and greatly improve their chances of getting at-large bid into the NCAA tournament.
The lone projected loss is at Oregon. Utah will have to conquer its demons against Oregon at some point.
What to Make of Oregon
Since a three-game winning streak to move to 7-5, Oregon has alternated wins and losses in its six last games.
Oregon beat a pair of teams it has had a ton of success against recently — Utah and Arizona at home — but it will need to be more consistent to be a factor in the postseason.
It has a chance to put a winning streak together, as it’s going on the road to Cal and Stanford this week before hosting Colorado and Utah next week.
However, first, it will be important to not overlook Cal. The Golden Bears have been dreadful for most of the year and are just 3-15. However, they are 4-3 ATS in conference play.
Cal also led the majority of the way before losing in overtime, 81-78, in its last time out at Washington.
KenPom projects a six-point Oregon win at Cal on Wednesday. I would prefer eight points, but given the up-and-down nature of Oregon this season, it may be worth it to take the points with the Bears.