Utah vs UCLA Odds, Picks: Trust the Utes’ Defense

Utah vs  UCLA Odds, Picks: Trust the Utes’ Defense article feature image

Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images. Pictured: Marco Anthony (Utah)

Utah vs UCLA Odds

Thursday, Jan. 12
11 p.m. ET
Pac-12 Network
Utah Odds
-114o / -106u
-114o / -106u
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute college basketball odds here.

Thursday night's slate is loaded with key Pac-12 matchups that could seriously change the landscape of current conference standings.

The most important matchup consists of conference leader UCLA looking to remain undefeated in league play as it hosts the Utes, who are currently second in the standings.

The Bruins are 14-2 on the season and 5-0 in conference. They have also yet to lose a game at home.

Utah, meanwhile, is 12-5 on the season and is coming off its first conference loss.

The Utes have already picked up some big conference road wins, knocking off Washington State in OT, Stanford (nearly a wire-to-wire victory) and Arizona.

UCLA leads the all-time series against Utah 10-6 and is currently on a five-game series winning streak. The Utes haven't won in L.A. since February 2019.

Mick Cronin has his Bruins firing on all cylinders right now, and they're playing some of the best basketball since he took over in 2020.

But regression comes for us all, so will it come for the Bruins against the 19th-most efficient defense in the country?

Utah Utes

Utah has posted some impressive wins in conference play, but a double-digit loss to the Ducks at home brings up the same questions many had following losses to BYU and TCU.

How good is this Utah team truly?

Three major factors are present in each of the Utes' five losses.

In each of Utah's five losses, it struggled from the perimeter, had 14 or more turnovers and had 16 or more fouls (excluding Sam Houston).

UCLA has been the second-best team in conference when it comes to limiting 3-point percentage. The Bruins have held teams to just 24.3%, which is behind only the Utes themselves.

In terms of turnovers, the Bruins are forcing conference opponents to cough up the ball on over 21.6% on possessions.

And when it comes to fouls, UCLA has been able to draw 14.4 per game against conference opponents.

Overall on the season, the Bruins have been even better than these numbers reflect.

Utah has an impressive defense of its own, but will its offense be able to do enough to keep up with the Bruins?

UCLA Bruins

Are the Bruins a great team? Absolutely. Are they playing the best basketball we've seen since Cronin arrived? I believe so. Are they going to beat Utah by double digits? Not if this Utah defense shows up.

Last time out, the Bruins were at home against USC, and they were also a double-digit favorite. UCLA barely made it out with a win after shooting just 34.5% from the floor and giving up scoring runs of 11, six and seven late in the second half.

After being down by as many as 18 early in the second, USC used its defense to pressure the Bruins to come back and take the lead with just 32 seconds left in the game.

Utah is a better defense than the Trojans in almost every facet of the game, and we could very well see a similar outcome if UCLA isn't careful.

UCLA sees a ridiculous 72.7% of its shots come at the rim, in the paint or from mid-range.

Utah's defense ranks in the 70th percentile or better defending each of those areas in conference play. The Utes also rank in the 99th percentile when it comes to defending the mid-range over their last five games, holding opponents to just 23.8%.

The Bruins rarely take 3s — averaging just 17.3 attempts per game — but if they can't find success scoring on the interior, they may have start pulling up from deep.

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Utah vs. UCLA Betting Pick

I don't think Utah is going to beat the Bruins, but its defense can do enough to keep this game close — much like USC did.

I think this spread is much too high given how well the Utes' defense can perform. Not to mention, I fully expect Utah to be even more motivated following its first conference loss of the season.

Back the Utes at +10 or better to keep it close against the Bruins.

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