NCAAB Betting Guide: UCLA vs. Arizona Odds, Picks & Prediction
Photo by Christopher Hook/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Azuolas Tubelis (Arizona)
UCLA vs Arizona Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
In the highly-anticipated Pac-12 bout between two of the nation's heavyweights, No. 11 Arizona welcomes No. 5 UCLA to Tucson looking to hand the Bruins their first conference loss.
UCLA has been scorching hot this season and has ripped off 14 straight wins. Mick Cronin's squad just took down Arizona State on the road and pulled off a nine-point comeback against Colorado to remain undefeated in conference play.
Arizona, meanwhile, has faltered a bit. The Wildcats are just 5-3 in Pac-12 play and have lost two of their last four.
Tommy Lloyd and Co. made light work of USC on Thursday night in a 15-point win, and enter this one at McKale Memorial Center as home underdogs.
Can UCLA remain perfect in Pac-12 play, or are the Wildcats live underdogs at home in what should be a raucous environment?
Entering with the nation's third-longest active win streak, UCLA gears up for its toughest test yet against Arizona. The Bruins have flirted with danger many times in Pac-12 play, but Cronin's squad has been extremely relentless, using late pushes to pull out victories.
More impressive is the fact UCLA has been without five-star freshman phenom Amari Bailey for the last six games. He was seen shooting pregame against Arizona State, but did not suit up.
Despite his absence, others have stepped up and provided huge lifts. David Singleton scored 21 points in a comeback win against Arizona State, and Jaylen Clark added 18 against Colorado.
Even though those games ended in double-digit wins, that only came because of late pushes. In those wins, UCLA outscored its opponents 54-17 in the final 10 minutes.
This is as well-rounded a squad as Cronin has had at UCLA. The Bruins are extremely disciplined and slow in their offensive progressions. While they don't draw many fouls, they clean the glass on the offensive end and are 12th in adjusted efficiency.
There aren't many reliable 3-point shooters aside from Singleton, who connects at a 45.6% clip. The Bruins rank 352nd in 3PA/FGA, looking to run their offense inside through Jaime Jaquez Jr. or Tyger Campbell in the pick-and-roll.
Defensively, the Bruins rank fifth in adjusted efficiency and eighth in turnover rate. It's led to them to being a fantastic transition offense, but there are some underlying issues.
For starters, despite holding opponents to a sub-30% 3-point%, UCLA ranks 226th in defending catch-and-shoot 3s and 220th on off-the-dribble 3s.
The Bruins don't foul a lot — which has been a positive — but they give up a lot of looks from the perimeter, which should regress negatively in the coming weeks.
Adem Bona has been a strong interior force in his freshman season and ranks inside the top 100 in block rate, but UCLA does sit outside the top 200 in holding opponents off the offensive glass.
Lloyd's squad has suffered a couple of hiccups over the last couple of weeks, but this fast-paced, efficient offense isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
Offense is the name of the game for this Arizona team. Kerr Kriisa remains an incredible facilitator for one of the most fluid offenses in college basketball, while the duo of big men Azuolas Tubelis and Oumar Ballo dominate the paint.
There are few players as dominant as Tubelis on the interior. The 6-foot-11 junior takes over 30.8% of shots while on the floor and is the team's leading scorer (20.2) and rebounder (9.4). He can stretch the floor, but is best in the low post, shooting 58% on 243 total 2-point attempts.
Paired alongside the 7-footer Ballo, there are few teams that can keep the Wildcats away from the rim, where they are ninth in 2-point offense and 51st in offensive rebounding rate.
There are few players that have taken a more significant step forward than Ballo. He is a force around the rim and draws 7.1 fouls per 40 minutes (11th). He ranks inside the top 25 in eFG% and is a fantastic rebounder (9.0 per game).
The duo's presence inside not only leads to plenty of second chances for Arizona, but it opens the floor for shooters like Courtney Ramey, Kriisa and Co.
This is a disruptive group that attacks relentlessly. Because of the Wildcats' fast-paced nature, turnovers can become an issue. But their height advantage often trumps all.
Defensively, this is a sound team. The Wildcats are 56th in 2-point defense, which makes sense considering their interior presence. This isn't a disruptive group that forces many turnovers —289th — but they defend the perimeter at an above-average rate and are disciplined in the fouling department.
Lloyd loves to force opponents into a track meet, taking a page out of his former boss Mark Few's notebook. As we've seen in his two years at the helm in Tucson, it works.
It's also important to monitor the status of Kriisa. He took a tough fall and seemed to have injured his back against USC on Thursday night. He did return to the game and will likely suit up in Arizona's biggest home game of the season.
UCLA vs Arizona Betting Pick
I'm looking to back the home underdog here. I've been waiting for the perfect time to fade UCLA amid its scorching-hot stretch, and Saturday afternoon is the time to do it.
I'm not sure the Bruins will be able to match the size and athleticism of Arizona inside. Ballo is a force and Tubelis' versatility makes for difficult matchups, especially when they are both on the floor.
UCLA will be relying heavily on Bona and Kenneth Nwuba to clean up the glass and defend at the rim, but in a raucous game at McKale, the edge is clearly on the side of the veteran bigs from Tucson.
There should be plenty of second-chance opportunities, and Arizona's run-and-gun mentality is a cause for concern for the Bruins.
UCLA will likely get Bailey back, but if he misses Saturday, that's even more of a reason to back the Wildcats.
As I've mentioned before, while UCLA's defense has been strong from an outsider's perspective, it's been flirting with fire. The Bruins' lack of size should be an issue and their struggles in the pick-and-roll (146th) and defending the 3 should give Arizona plenty of opportunities to pull away.
To beat Arizona, you have to score with it. UCLA is normally a slower-paced team and if the Wildcats do what they do best — build an early lead — it could spell doom for the Bruins.
We saw UCLA mount comebacks against Colorado and Arizona State over the last week, but those offenses aren't near the level of talent that is Arizona.
Using Kriisa and the duo of Ballo and Tubelis in the pick-and-roll will space the floor and create plenty of great scoring chances for a well-balanced offensive attack.
Tack on the fact that Arizona is fantastic at defending the pick-and-roll (13th), and UCLA should find itself in trouble. That's the Bruins' primary source of offense.
Turnovers could prove to be an issue for Arizona, but behind a home crowd at McKale Memorial Center, I love the idea of backing the Wildcats here.
UCLA has been skating on thin ice — being able to beat lesser foes — but its toughest test comes tomorrow. And I'm looking to back Lloyd's squad to hand the Bruins their first loss of the season.
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