NCAA Basketball Picks: Is UCLA Poised To Upset No. 7 Arizona?

Matthew Jordan

Thursday, January 7, 2016 12:37 PM GMT

We preview the matchup between the Arizona Wildcats and the UCLA Bruins. Find out who we like for our NCAA basketball picks of the night and make some extra earnings this Thursday.

[/]{"component":"oddswidget", "eventId":2935898, "sportsbooksIds":[169,1096,93,19,92,238], "LineTypeId":1, "PeriodTypeId":1}[/]
Free NCAA Basketball Pick: UCLA Bruins +3½
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle

 

Easily the most interesting matchup on Thursday's NCAA Basketball schedule is between No. 7 Arizona and UCLA at Pauley Pavilion (on ESPN2). These are the two most talented rosters in the Pac-12. The Wildcats are 3-point favorites on BetOnline odds. 

 

UCLA Looking For Consistency
I might have called UCLA (9-6, 0-2 Pac-12) the second-best team in the conference a week or so ago. After all, the Bruins beat a good UNLV team as well as then-No. 1 Kentucky and No. 20 Gonzaga in the non-conference schedule.

But this has been a puzzling team. It also lost to Monmouth and Wake Forest, and the Bruins started Pac-12 play by being swept at the Washington schools last weekend. UCLA fell 95-93 in double overtime at Washington on New Year's Day. That game was crazy as UCLA's Bryce Alford hit 3-pointers at the end of regulation and the first overtime to extend it. He finished with 30 points despite missing his first 11 shots to start the game. There were 64 fouls called overall and 90 free throws attempted. UCLA was 38-for-50 from the line and made only three 3-pointers.

Against Washington State, the Bruins might have been gassed in losing 85-78. The Cougars took control of the game by hitting 13 of their first 17 shots in the second half to lead by 13. UCLA, which shot just 36 percent after intermission, could only close within six. Isaac Hamilton led UCLA with a season-high 27 points, and center Thomas Welsh had 13 points and 10 rebounds for his sixth double-double of the season. Alford certainly looked tired, hitting just 2-for-10 from the field for nine points. He leads the team in scoring at 16.9 points per game.

If you watch this game and see a bunch of UCLA fans in eyeglass frames, it's because the school is honoring Thunder star Russell Westbrook as he gave the school a large contribution toward a basketball center that's under construction. Westbrook, who played at UCLA, will be in attendance and recognized at the game. The school is handing out the frames as part of it because Westbrook wears them in his post-game news conferences.

UCLA is 4-11 against the spread on NCAA basketball odds this season and 3-5 at home.

 

Zeus Returns!
Arizona (13-1, 1-0) lost a ton of talent off last year's Elite Eight team but is still the clear favorite in the Pac-12 as Coach Sean Miller continues to reload with top recruits. The Wildcats' only loss was by four to a very good Providence team in a Thanksgiving holiday tournament outside Los Angeles. Like UCLA, Arizona also has wins over UNLV and Gonzaga.

The Wildcats opened Pac-12 play last Sunday with a 94-82 win at rival Arizona State. Gabe York scored 22 points and Allonzo Trier added 20. But the big news from that was the return of senior center Kaleb Tarczewski, who had been out since Nov. 26 with a stress reaction in his foot. The team will be cautious with "Zeus" and he was limited to 15 minutes off the bench against ASU and had eight points, five rebounds and four fouls. Tarczewski reported no pain afterward. Miller said he didn’t know exactly how much Tarczewski would play vs. UCLA but that it likely would be as a reserve again.

The Cats remain without reserve junior guard Elliott Pitts. He hasn't played since Dec. 5 and it really hasn't been explained why he's not with the team.

Arizona is 8-6 ATS on NCAA basketball picks and 2-0 on the road.

 

Last Season
Arizona was ranked in the Top 10 for both meetings and won them both -- but the schools didn't play in Los Angeles. It was a 57-47 Wildcats victory in Tucson in one of the ugliest games of the Pac-12 season. UCLA was held to 18 first-half points but Arizona went six minutes before scoring its first points of the game and then nearly seven before its first in the second half. The Wildcats had a 40-23 rebounding advantage and outscored the Bruins 16-0 on second-chance points. Both teams shot under 40 percent. Alford had 22 to lead UCLA, which got zero points from its bench. Arizona had only one starter in double figures: T.J. McConnell (now in NBA) with 11. In the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas, Arizona won 70-64 in the semifinals. Brandon Ashley (gone now) led Arizona with 24 points. The Bruins haven't faced Arizona in Pauley Pavilion since Jan. 5, 2014, when the Wildcats were 15-0 and ranked No. 1 in the nation. UA won 79-75, rallying from 13 points down in the second half.

The Bruins have largely played to their competition this season. Take the points here. Arizona is 0-4 ATS in its past four Thursday games. UCLA is 6-1 ATS in the past seven meetings. 

Don't Miss Our Preview On What To Look For In A Good Team