Odds & Pick for UCLA vs. Arizona State Basketball: Dare To Back Sun Devils After Long Layoff? (Thursday, Jan. 7)
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images. Pictured: Remy Martin
- UCLA is a slight road favorite on the road against Arizona State tonight, a team that hasn't played in over three weeks.
- The last time the Sun Devils took the floor, they were upset, 76-63, by UTEP at home.
- BJ Cunningham breaks down the best bet for tonight's Pac-12 matchup.
UCLA vs. Arizona State Odds
UCLA continues its ascension toward the top of the Pac-12 on Thursday when it battles Arizona State.
Mick Cronin’s squad has sure rebounded from a blowout loss to San Diego State to begin the season, as it’s won seven of its last eight games. The Bruins opened Pac-12 play with two extremely close wins over Utah and Colorado, so they haven’t been very dominant so far in conference play. They were dealt a blow, as one of their best players, Chris Smith, is out for the season with an ACL injury.
INJURY UPDATE: Chris Smith sustained a torn ACL in his left knee during UCLA's 72-70 victory against Utah on Thursday evening.
He will be out for the remainder of the 2020-21 season. pic.twitter.com/llFSDdq6wN
— UCLA Men’s Basketball (@UCLAMBB) January 2, 2021
Arizona State’s schedule this season has been ravaged by COVID, as it’s had its last four games either cancelled or postponed. The last time the Devils were in action, they were upset at home by UTEP, 76-63. So, Bobbly Hurley has his work cut out for him trying to get the his team back on track.
When UCLA has the ball
Mick Cronin’s offense has been the the best in the Pac-12 this season. The Bruins rank 11th in offensive efficiency and have no real weaknesses on offense. However, in two of their last three games, they’ve struggled from deep, shooting under 30% against Ohio State and Colorado. Also, in their last game against Colorado they really struggled holding onto the ball, as they committed 14 turnovers.
It’s hard to understate just how big of a loss Chris Smith is to this Bruin team. He is their most used player over the past two seasons, at over 25%, and is their go-to scorer on offense. He also is their unquestioned leader and the only senior on their roster. So, losing his experience is going to be blow for the Bruins.
Arizona State hasn’t been very good on defense to start the season, ranking in the bottom half of college basketball in just about every defensive metric having to do with guarding the opposing team’s shot.
The Sun Devils play one of the fastest tempos in the country and often struggle defending in transition. The good news is UCLA plays one of the slowest tempos in the country, so ASU may be off the hook on Thursday.
When Arizona State has the ball
Hurley has his best team yet in his tenure in Tempe, as his two main contributors, Remy Martin and Alonzo Verge, took their names out of the NBA Draft to come back for one more season. He also landed five-star recruit Joshua Christopher and four-star Marcus Bagley to round out an uber-talented starting five. However, they have yet gel together as Hurley was hoping, and are only 49th in offensive efficiency.
There have been two main problems. First, they haven’t been crashing the offensive glass at all, ranking 325th in offensive rebound rate. That will be a problem against UCLA, which rarely gives up offensive rebounds. Second, they’ve been below average beyond the arc, mainly due to their 1-for-18 performance in their last game against UTEP.
One of the usual staples of a Mick Cronin squad is fantastic defensive play. I don’t know if it’s the beautiful southern California weather that has caused him to change his ways, but UCLA has been terrible on defense this year. It’s allowing their opponents to shoot over 52% from inside the arc, which is going to be a problem against Arizona State, which relies on 53% of its points coming from there.
The loss of Chris Smith is also going to be felt on the defensive end of the floor. The senior was one UCLA’s best defenders and its best defensive rebounder. Arizona State will have an advantage in the front court on Thursday with Smith out of the lineup.
Betting Analysis & Pick
Even though Arizona State has been off for over three weeks, I think it’ll be much improved from its game against UTEP. The loss of Chris Smith is a huge one that I don’t think UCLA will be able to overcome against an ultra talented team like Arizona State.
I have Arizona State projected as a -1.21 favorite, so I think there is value on the Devils as +1.5 underdogs at home (FanDuel)
Pick: Arizona State +1.5 | Play down to +1