In essence, this is like an NCAA Tournament elimination game for the Bruins who are on the bubble at 16-11 and a conference record of 8-6. A victory over the number 7 team in the nation would look mighty good on UCLA's resume, but is easier said than done.
The UCLA Bruins (16-11) have won 4 out of the last 5 games against the #7 Arizona Wildcats (23-3) in their long standing Pac-12 rivalry; and are currently listed on the NCAA basketball odds at +14. The Bruins have also won 5 out of their last 7 games but will be facing the ultimate challenge as they look to steal one at the McKale Center and make their case for an NCAA Tournament bid. See who we like as our college basketball pick.
Arizona is making a great case for themselves as one of the best teams in the nation and have excelled in their own conference, winning 9 out of their last 10 games.
The Wildcats have done it on both ends of the court. In their last 3 games, the Wildcats have averaged 86.3 points per game and allowed a mere 59.3 points per game. Granted, it was against the 3 worst teams in the Pac-12 Conference, but Arizona has been consistently winning all season long as they've been a very efficient offensive team from the field shooting nearly 50%.
While the Wildcats are led by the trio of Stanley Johnson (14.5 ppg, 6.7 rpg.), Brandon Ashley (11.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg.) and Rondae Hollis- Jefferson (11.5 ppg, 6.7 rpg), 7 foot center Kaleb Tarzcewski has been playing rather well as of late.
Tarzcewski has a tendency of getting in foul trouble which limits his playing time, but in his last 2 games, he's averaging 16 points and 6.5 rebounds on 12 of 17 shooting from the field in an average of 22.5 minutes per game. Arizona has a major advantage on the boards and T.J. McConnell (9.8 points, 6 assists, 3.9 rebounds ) plays the point guard position well, but the outstanding play of Tarzcewski as of late is icing on the cake for a well-rounded team that can go deep into the NCAA 2015 tournament. UCLA will have their hands full tonight.
Can They Pull Off the Upset?
UCLA went was on a major run, winning 5 out of their last 6 games and it started with an upset of Utah, but the Bruins gave up a first half lead to Savon Goodman and the Arizona State Sun Devils as Goodman shot 8 of 8 from the field and ended up with 20 points and 12 rebounds as the Sun Devils edged out the Bruins 68-66. The Bruins are an outstanding rebounding team (14th in the nation), but were outrebounded by Arizona State, 39-27, and this contributed to the painful loss. Now, the Bruins face a team in the Arizona Wildcats, who have a stingy defense, allowing under 60 points per game.
A Chip Off the Old Block?
Both leading scorer, Norman Powell, and leading rebounder, Kevin Looney have been playing well as of late. Powell has averaged 19.5 points in his last 2 games and Looney is averaging 16 points and 8.5 rebounds in his last 2 games and has shot a sizzling 13 of 24 from the field. The problem has been the play of 3-point shooting guard Bryce Alford.
Alford puts up a high volume of outside shots like his father Steve Alford used to do at the University of Indiana, but the difference is that Bryce has been off the mark all season long and he continues to shoot. Alford is averaging 38.1% from the field for the season and in his last 2 games, is shooting just 6 of 24 from the field .This type of play won't cut it, especially when playing a team the caliber of Arizona.
Although everything points to an easy Arizona victory, look for UCLA to play with urgency. This is a team that can control the boards and this will come into play. I also expect a better outing out of Bryce Alford. Take the points.
NCAA Basketball Pick- UCLA +14 at 5Dimes