NCAA Basketball Picks: Ignore The Public & Bet Arizona St. vs. UCLA

Jason Lake

Saturday, February 13, 2016 10:52 PM UTC

Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016 10:52 PM UTC

When it comes to performance level, you could slide a sheet of paper between the UCLA Bruins and Arizona State Sun Devils – but not against the NCAA Basketball odds.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Arizona State -2.5 (-105)
Best Line Offered: at WagerWeb

Jason's 2015-16 record as of Feb. 12: 3-3 ATS, 1-1 Totals


Every once in a while when you're making NCAA Basketball picks, you get a matchup where the two teams involved are virtually equal in talent. Then you just have to look at the lines to see which club is being overvalued in the marketplace, and voilà. Sunday's Pac-12 tilt (8:30 p.m. ET) in Tempe between the UCLA Bruins and the Arizona State Sun Devils is one of those matchups. There isn't much of a gap at all between these two programs, but it looks like there's just enough of a profit margin to make the Sun Devils worth a small wager.


Bobby's Revenge
Let's work backwards this time and start with the NCAA Basketball odds board. Arizona State is laying 2.5 points as we go to press; if we assign 3.5 points for home-court advantage, that means the betting public values the Bruins just a little more than the Sun Devils on a neutral court.

As you might expect. UCLA (13-11 SU, 9-15 ATS) is one of the most storied programs in college hoops. They've gone to the Sweet Sixteen in back-to-back seasons under head coach Steve Alford, and they won the Pac-12 tournament in 2014. Arizona State (14-11 SU, 12-11-1 ATS) has gone dancing just once this decade, and the Sun Devils are in their first year of rebuilding under head coach Bobby Hurley – yes, that Bobby Hurley.

Be that as it may, the Bruins have taken a big step back this year. Replacing Kevon Looney (now with the Golden State Warriors) at power forward has proved more difficult than anticipated. Returning center Tony Parker (22.1 PER, +3.9 BPM) and Aussie import Jonah Bolden (12.9 PER, +6.5 BPM) have been strong on defense, but haven't come close to replicating Looney's offensive production. Making up for the loss of guard and leading scorer Norman Powell (now with the Toronto Raptors) has been a chore, too.


You Say Tomato Can, I Say Tomato Can
Once you crunch all the numbers, there's been almost no difference in the level of play between these two teams. Sports-Reference has UCLA (+11.4 SRS) very slightly ahead of Arizona State (+11.3 SRS) on the Simple Rating System, and Ken Pomeroy has the Sun Devils ranked No. 62 overall (No. 66 offense, No. 82 defense) in Division I, just one spot above the Bruins at No. 63 (No. 36 offense, No. 122 defense). We'll call it a wash.

Having said that, UCLA did beat Arizona State 81-74 last month as a 5.5-point home chalk, canning nine of 18 trey attempts for the win. Will lightning strike twice? The betting public seems to think so, betting the Bruins up from +4 at the open. We'll take the contrarian route, as we often do, and we'll recommend you wait until closer to Sunday's tip-off to see if you can get an even better price on the Sun Devils.

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