Free NCAA Basketball Picks: Utes Looking For 1st Pac-12 Win At Pauley

Willie Bee

Thursday, February 18, 2016 2:05 PM GMT

Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016 2:05 PM GMT

Utah faces a couple of tough games in LA this weekend, first taking on the UCLA Bruins in a Thursday night clash that is part of our NCAA basketball picks schedule.

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Free NCAAB Pick: Over 147
Best Line Offered: at Bookmaker

 

Time has already run out for Steve Alford and the UCLA Bruins. Languishing in the bottom third of the Pac-12 standings, the only path for the Bruins to make the NCAA Tournament is to win the conference tourney scheduled for the MGM Grand in Las Vegas a little less than three weeks from now.

There's still plenty of time left for the Utah Utes; in fact, Larry Krystkowiak's crew is still projected to be a No. 7 or No. 8 seed at the Big Dance and they're sitting within reach of the Pac-12 regular season crown, and certainly in line for a top 4 finish that would guarantee the Utes a 1st-round bye.

There is also plenty of time for Utah to cough up its good standing, starting with a tough weekend trip to Los Angeles. First up on the stop is a Thursday night matchup with the Bruins at Pauley Pavilion, the tip coming a bit past 10 PM (ET) with ESPN2 providing the broadcast. The game opened close to a pick 'em with UCLA giving up 1 at Bookmaker, the same shop sending 148 out for its initial total.

 

Utes Looking For 1st Pac-12 Win At Pauley
A win over rival Arizona State on Wednesday gave Arizona sole possession of first in the Pac-12 standings, the Wildcats a half-game ahead of Oregon now. Utah and USC are next in a 3rd-place tie, setting up their big matchup on Sunday.

This rivalry has its deepest roots dating back to more than 90 years ago, though the schools met infrequently from 1921-1983 when the teams met in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in a West Region clash played in Boise. Six of the 14 meetings over the years have taken place since Utah joined the Pac-12 for the 2011-12 campaign, the Bruins winning four of the conference encounters to stand 8-6 vs. Utah all-time.

Unless they happen to meet in Las Vegas in the Pac-12 bracket, this will be the only battle between the two this season after splitting two matchups a year ago, each winning at home. The contest played in LA went to the Bruins, 69-59, as 5½ point underdogs on the NCAA basketball odds, the final falling short of a 134½ total.

That 'under' winner was the fifth straight in the series, the only time the clubs went 'over' the mark coming in their first Pac-12 meeting in 2012. The Utes check in for Thursday's tilt sporting a 14-11 O/U record while UCLA sits 15-10.

 

Bruins Back Home After 3 On The Road
Utah (19-7 straight up, 10-13-1 against the spread) bounced back from consecutive losses to Oregon and Oregon State by besting both Washington and Washington State last week. The 90-82 win over the Huskies wasn't enough to cover a 10½ point spread despite the Utes shooting a season-high 67% from the field and connecting on 10-of-17 from 3-point range. They enjoyed another fine shooting performance in an 88-47 victory vs. the Beavers, this time playing solid defense to beat a 17 point line.

Returning home for the first time since the end of January, UCLA (14-11 SU, 10-15 ATS) is looking for its first 2-game win streak since earlier last month when the Bruins popped Arizona and Arizona State back-to-back. They couldn't repeat the performance against the Wildcats last Friday in Tucson, dropping an 81-75 decision to Arizona as 12 point underdogs, but the Bruins did manage to earn the season sweep of the Sun Devils two days later with a 78-65 victory in Tempe where UCLA was getting 2 at the closing bell.

I wish I had enough confidence in the Utes for my free NCAA basketball picks to finally break through and win at Pauley, but I don't. Instead, let's just watch the offenses shoot 'em up tonight in an 'over' winner.

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