Pac-12 Basketball Tournament Championship Odds & Picks: How to Bet UCLA vs. Arizona
Christopher Hook/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Bennedict Mathurin (0) and Christian Koloko (35).
- UCLA squares off with Arizona in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
- The Wildcats have an edge in this game, even without the likely services of Kerr Kriisa.
- Charlie Disturco breaks down the matchup and offers up his best bet.
UCLA vs. Arizona Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
It’s only fitting that the two best teams in the Pac-12 get a chance at the tournament championship. Both teams secured wins on their home floors against each other and will meet at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas for the conference title.
Can Tommy Lloyd lead the Wildcats to a regular season and tournament title in his first year as head coach? Or will Mick Cronin’s Bruins squad spoil the opportunity?
Let’s get into it.
Mick Cronin has done a sensational job with UCLA in this third season. Last year’s First Four-to-Final Four sweethearts of the NCAA Tournament have kept the ball rolling and have a chance at winning their first Pac-12 title since 2014.
The Bruins play exceptionally smart basketball. They turn the ball over at the fifth-lowest rate nationally and rarely take bad shots. They’ve battled the injury bug the entire season with a handful of rotation players missing games or being limited, most notably star Johnny Juzang, who is still recovering from an ankle injury.
While UCLA sits inside the top 100 in 3-point shooting, the Bruins don’t shoot 3s at a high rate. Rather, they settle for mid range jumpers. They sit outside the top 300 frequency-wise when it comes to attacking the rim and 3-point shooting, per ShotQuality.
Juzang is the go-to option for this Bruins squad. He takes nearly 30% of shots while on the floor, has the second-best turnover rate in conference play and shoots 36% from beyond the arc. He was the key to UCLA’s deep tournament run last season but this time around, he’ll have more help.
Specifically, the development of point guard Tyger Campbell. His improvement from last year cannot be understated. The junior has gone from shooting 25% from 3 to now 41% this season. He’s not a high-volume shooter, but he’s efficient and an excellent playmaker for the Bruins offense to feed off of.
Defensively, UCLA is well-rounded. They are the No. 1 defense in conference play in adjusted efficiency and defend both the perimeter and inside well. The Bruins’ only glaring weakness on the defensive side comes on catch and shoot 3s, where they rank 271st, per ShotQuality.
This Tommy Lloyd-led Arizona team is something special. This is a squad nobody expected to secure a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament or win the Pac-12 regular season championship.
Yet, the Wildcats have taken a gigantic leap forward under their new head coach. This is an elite offensive team that loves to push the pace and thrives in transition. They play unselfish basketball and assist on 65.5% of all field goals.
Much of their success comes from attacking the rim. Arizona ranks fifth in 2-point percentage, led by bigs Christian Koloko and Azuolas Tubelis. They thrive around the rim and are elite at creating second-chance opportunities, usually cleaning up the boards for themselves. The duo both sit inside the top 10 in offensive rebounding rate in Pac-12 play.
Tack on Bennedict Mathurin, the sophomore star who shoots 38.3% from 3 and takes 26% of all shots while on the floor, and this offense is as well-balanced as it comes. Mathurin averages 17.3 points per game and consistently shows up in big games.
It was always expected that Lloyd would bring over the elite offense similar to his former boss Mark Few at Gonzaga. The run-and-gun fearlessness of this Wildcats team has led to a spectacular 30-3 record entering the Pac-12 championship.
But the Wildcats defense is also important to note. Koloko is one of the best rim protectors in college basketball and his presence often deters opponents from attacking inside. Arizona has the third-best 2-point defense, per Kenpom, and sits in the top 10 defensively at defending cuts, post-up moves and finishes at the rim, per ShotQuality.
Starting point guard Kerr Kriisa will likely miss the championship game with an ankle sprain suffered in their quarterfinal win over Stanford. Though a streaky shooter, he leads the team with 4.9 assists per game and is the main facilitator in this offense. Without him, playmaking duties will fall on Georgia transfer Justin Kier.
UCLA vs. Arizona Betting Pick
This is going to be one of the most exciting conference championship games of the weekend. Two of the NCAA’s elite squaring off for a third time.
I still think Arizona holds a relatively sizable advantage. They came out extremely flat against UCLA in the first game — they were due for some negative offensive regression — and arguably played their worst game of the season at Pauley Pavilion. The Wildcats then rebounded at home and showed their true colors.
Arizona has the advantage all over the floor. They should dominate the offensive boards and create plenty of second-chance opportunities. Arizona has the more well-rounded team and I think it’ll show in the third game of the series.
The biggest question will be how healthy Juzang is.
If he is healthy — which I’m not sure he’s 100% yet — and catches fire, they can go blow for blow with Arizona in a fast-paced environment. But I would expect UCLA to try and slow down the tempo, controlling the pace of play to take the Wildcats out of their run-and-gun element.
I wrote in my Pac-12 Tournament preview that I would bet Arizona (-120) to win the title. With that in mind, I won’t be playing this game. But if you don’t have a future, my recommendation would be Arizona moneyline, as it sits around the same price.
This is a game where I think Arizona shows up and fights for Lloyd in his first season the helm, getting the job done and securing a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.