The last time a pair of ranked Pac-12 schools met was one day shy of two years ago, Jan. 20, 2011. Washington, ranked 20th by the coaches, hosted the then-No.25 Arizona and pasted an 85-68 whipping on the Wildcats.
Saturday's clash between the UCLA Bruins and Oregon Ducks will snap that drought, and the winner will retain at least a share of the conference lead. CBS will have the tip from the Bruins' home floor in Westwood a few minutes past 4 PM (ET), and UCLA is favored by 4.5 on the basketball odds to win its 11th straight game. The overnight odds also sat at 146.5 for scoreboard watchers.
Oregon brings its own 6-game win streak into the battle, with 10 dubyas the last 11 times out, though the Ducks have failed to cover the last two since handing Arizona its lone loss of the campaign. We might excuse Thursday's 76-74 nipping of USC across town on the Trojans' campus as 4-point road chalk as a look-ahead to this contest.
Dana Altman's club was supposed to be part of the Pac-12 resurgence this season, but a win Saturday would exceed those early expectations. Oregon has an incredibly balanced group of scorers with no single player above 12 PPG, yet 36th overall averaging 76.4 PPG. Even more impressive is the team effort on the glass.
UCLA isn't just a one-man show with Shabazz Muhammed in the starring role, but the freshman out of Sin City is definitely the fuel for the fire. Travis Wear has scored 11+ the last five games, while Jordan Adams is coming off a bad evening but more than capable of being a difference-maker where the spread is concerned.
How well Oregon's bigs –Tony Woods, Arsalan Kazemi and Waverly Austin –handle the Wear Boys, Travis and David, along with Kyle Anderson of UCLA is the key in the outcome. My free college basketball pick will be on the Bruins winning that part for the cover.
Badgers In Potential Letdown Spot At Iowa
Disclaimer: I'm a big Bo Ryan fan and can bore you with both statistical and philosophical minutiae that proves he's one of the greatest college basketball coaches ever. Ever! The fact Wisconsin has suddenly become chic on the college hoops landscape is laughable.
Still, this is a tough spot for Ryan and the Badgers in an 8 PM jump at Iowa. It's a pick at some locales with college basketball bettors giving up a point to take Iowa at others. The total was a more agreed-upon 127.5 points.
Iowa just ended a tough start to the Big Ten schedule with a nice, easy win at Northwestern. The Hawkeyes opened conference play with three consecutive setbacks, a particularly embarrassing rout at Michigan bookended by home losses to Indiana and Michigan State. They had chances to beat both the Spartans and Hoosiers, plus have been tough at home (5-1 ATS, only cash-drop to Michigan State by a point at the window).
There is temptation to take Iowa for the mild upset at home, but the UNDER sways me more.
Raiders, Crusaders In Early Horizon League Showdown
Butler's departure from the Horizon League to the Atlantic 10 did more than add beef to the latter. It opened up the Horizon to a new king, and we get a chance to find out who is ready to be the early replacement on that throne
Valparaiso is an 8-8.5 point favorite to become that team. The Crusaders host the Wright State Raiders who are off to a 4-0 start in conference play. The total was not part of the overnight odds release, but we have an idea where the final will land for a couple of teams that rank in the top 60 in fewest points allowed, and are a bit offensively challenged.
The Crusaders aren't quite short-bus material on the offensive end like the Raiders, but that's primarily because of Aussie Ryan Broekhoff who is averaging 17.1 PPG and has scored in double figures all but one of the 18 games he has played. On the flip side, Wright State is closer to Mensa status on the defensive end of the court than Valparaiso. The Raiders have been very consistent keeping opponents off the scoreboard, even in losses, and the numbers work out to this game ending in the low-120s.
My NCAAB Free picks: UCLA -4.5 / Wisconsin-Iowa Under 127.5 / Wright St-Valpo Total Pending at Bookmaker
Season: 34-28 ($3.20)