NCAA Basketball Picks: UCLA vs. Arizona

Jeff Grant

Thursday, January 24, 2013 1:38 PM GMT

Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013 1:38 PM GMT

The Arizona Wildcats will aim to remain perfect at home Thursday night, as they welcome in the UCLA Bruins to the McKale Center. Let’s take a closer look at the betting odds for this Pac-12 Conference showdown.


Bouncing back 

 

UCLA had its season-high 10-game win streak snapped last time out, suffering a 76-67 setback to the Oregon Ducks as five-point home favorites Saturday, while going UNDER the total for the fifth time in six contests. The Bruins opened up the first five minutes of play without leading scorer Shabazz Muhammad, who was benched for being late to a practice earlier in the week. UCLA has compiled a 5-1 straight-up record in Pac-12 play, while going 3-3 against the spread.

Check out Peter Loshak's NCAA Basketball Picks: Pac 12 Betting Trends for more insight.

Getting it done at home

Arizona returns home after winning two of three on its recent road trip, which included an impressive 71-54 victory over the Arizona State Sun Devils as 6.5-point favorites Saturday, while going UNDER the total for the third time in four contests. The Wildcats are 9-0 at the McKale Center this year, outscoring opponents by an average margin of 15.7 points. It’s still important to note that the program has failed to cover the spread in four of its last five efforts in front of its home fans. 

Muhammad is the key

Looking over the NCAA basketball odds page, the early wagering has signaled that many believe the Bruins will put together a solid performance in this spot when, but the team’s success truly hinges on Muhammad’s play. The star freshman has totaled just 20 points in two conference road games this year—knocking down just 9-of-29 shots from the field. He leads the squad in averaging 17.9 points per game. 

Winning with defense 

The Wildcats will win this game by a double-digit margin if they continue to get after it on the defensive end, especially when you consider that Thursday night’s opponent has compiled an 0-7 ATS record when matching up versus a team that allows 64 points or less per game. Arizona is limiting foes to 61.4 points on 40.2 percent shooting during the 2012-13 season. 

Protecting the basketball 

Senior point guard Larry Drew II is one of the key players to watch for the Bruins as they go into a hostile environment, considering he leads the country with an impressive 4.67 assist-to-turnover ratio. UCLA enters this affair having compiled a 1.53 mark in that particular category as a team—the highest ratio in 10 seasons under head coach Ben Howland.

[gameodds]14/218580/43/us[/gameodds]

Prediction

I’m going to recommend that readers add the Wildcats to their college basketball picks this evening, as the favorite has covered the spread in five of the last seven meetings in this rivalry. The Bruins are 7-0 when Muhammad goes for 20 or more points, but he’ll fail to reach that mark against one of the best defensive teams in the country. 

College Basketball Pick: Arizona Wildcats -8.5
comment here