Superior Defense Makes Arizona Our NCAA Basketball Pick vs. UCLA

Joe Gavazzi

Thursday, January 7, 2016 6:33 PM GMT

Classic desert duo on the road when Arizona visits UCLA on Thursday night. Don't miss our odds breakdown along with our free NCAA basketball picks.

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Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Arizona -153
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle

 

Arizona (-3) vs. UCLA 9:00 ET?
Arizona travels to Pauley Pavilion in Westwood, CA to meet the UCLA Bruins for this 9:00 ET tipoff. This game features UCLA, a team who dominated the conference in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s under legendary HC Wooden, then again, briefly in the early part of this millennium when native son, HC Howland, again authored multiple visits to the Final Four. Today, the Bruins are led by HC Alford in his 3rd year at the helm. The adversary is the Arizona Wildcats, who made their mark under Lute Olson in the interim of the UCLA glory years. Recently, the Wildcats have returned to conference dominance under intense 5th year HC Miller, who has led the Wildcats to 67 combined wins the last 2 years and an Elite 8 appearance. When these two met last year, Arizona won by 10 in Tucson and by 6 in the conference tourney. Still, UCLA was able to rebound from that loss to play in the Sweet 16. There are many different parts to this year’s teams. Let’s take a look at these entities to see where our edges may lie in this Thursday's night game!

 

UCLA Bruins
It has been a peripatetic season for the Bruins, who have been good enough to defeat Kentucky on this court (87-77), as well as Gonzaga and in Washington (71-66). In retrospect, however, neither of those wins looks as impressive as they looked at the beginning of this season. They have also been bad enough to lose on this Pauley Pavilion home court to Monmouth, then get swept at the Washington schools to open the PAC 12 season. Those were both games UCLA could have and should have won. The Washington game was an OT loss, which apparently left the Bruins flat for their game 2 days later. After those losses, HC Alford complained that the combined 181 points that UCLA allowed in the Great Northwest was an indication that they were “defensively soft.” A major contributor to those losing efforts was Alford’s son Bryce, a 17 PPG scorer, who went 7 for 31 last weekend in Washington. YTD numbers confirm the suspicions of Alford, as on the defensive end, UCLA is allowing 76 PPG and forcing less than 12 TOs per game. 

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

Arizona Wildcats
A far different story is being written in the high desert of Tucson this season. Under the tutelage of detail-oriented HC Miller, a virtually new band of Wildcats is carving out another stellar season. They enter tonight at 13-1 SU with their only loss in a late November Tourney game vs. Providence. They have been doing it as usual on the defensive end, where they qualify as one of our SUPER Ds with an allowance of just 62/40/29 and a major advantage on the boards with a +12.8 rebound margin. Seven-footer Tarczewski returned from a 7-game injury absence to add even more depth to their powerful front line. On the perimeter, the Wildcats have their own sniper in Gabe York to match the triples of Bryce Alford. It is quite possible that last Sunday’s road win at Arizona St. will be a benchmark for the Arizona season. It left them 2-0 SU ATS on the road with wins against a pair of quality teams, including Gonzaga. When they fended off every late game surge by Arizona St. on Sunday, it was an indication that they are the best team in the PAC 12 once again this year.

It is easy to reason that the Bruins will play an intense game in the face of going 0-3 SU in the league, while Arizona will suffer a letdown after the win against their arch-rival. But, Miller, with a road record at Arizona of 29-16 ATS has by far the superior defense in this one and will get the job done tonight. Even on a Pauley Pavilion floor, where UCLA is 53-8 SU L3+Y. I invite you to put the NCAA basketball odds in your favor and join me in my NCAA basketball pick on Arizona.