Utah Offensive Stats Misleading Going Into Trip to UCLA

Mark Lathrop

Thursday, January 11, 2018 1:05 PM UTC

Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018 1:05 PM UTC

Our NCAAB handicapper Mark Lathrop is back with an investigation of Pac-12 offenses as he breaks down a Thursday nationally televised game between Utah and UCLA. Read on as he explains how to wager this matchup.

2017-18 NCAAB Record: 23-13 (+9.15 Units)

Utah Utes at UCLA BruinsFree NCAAB Pick: Over 154Best Line Offered: 5Dimes

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In Thursday night Pac-12 action, we have a nationally televised game (11 p.m. ET, ESPN2) with the Utah Utes starting an L.A. swing by visiting the UCLA Bruins. After starting conference play with road wins over Oregon and Oregon State, the Utes surprisingly lost 2 home games at altitude against the two Arizona squads – although as short home underdogs. One of those games I covered in Arizona State with a pick on the Sun Devils, but came up just a point short on the 'over.' Those two losses put the Utes at 10-5 SU and 7-5 ATS.

The Bruins have beaten everyone that they have supposed to beat this season according to power rankings, with the exception of Stanford, which they lost to as a 3-point favorite on the road last week. The Bruins have been especially strong at home this year going 8-1 ATS, yet have just a 4-5 ATS record overall. That ATS trend is starting to normalize, though, with the Bruins going 3-1 SU and ATS since conference play began in easy wins over both Washington schools and Cal.

I spoke in my last write up of Utah that the key to beating it was to be aggressive and get to the foul line, as the Utes give up a lot of their points distribution from the charity stripe. Utah used this to their advantage against Arizona State in their last game, though, using some home cooking to get to the foul line 36 times against the Sun Devils. UCLA isn’t as prominent in getting points at the free throw line, but they are in the top 20% in the country, so I’d expect them to employ this strategy against Utah, with untimed scoring chances being a good portion of the way to their 87.6 points per game scoring average. UCLA has the 19th-fastest possession length in the country and the 32nd-fastest tempo as well, so look for it to push the pace.

Utah, on the other hand, is slow on tempo overall, ranked just 210th in the country. However, the Utes have breached the 80-point mark in 7 of their 15 games. Their road game average of 67.8 points per game as shown on the SBR odds page is a bit misleading, as that mark came against teams with adjusted tempos averaging 231st in the NCAA over 4 games. The Utes will be facing a different animal on their home court. UCLA has the top-ranked offense in terms of efficiency in Pac-12 play this year, while the Utah defense is ranked 10th.

For their part, Utah’s offense is also ranked high in conference play so far even with a few of its winning totals sitting in the 60’s. The Utes sit at 4th in the Pac-12 in offensive efficiency according to Pomeroy rankings, so a ramped-up UCLA pace at home should have them breaking 70 with ease here given additional possessions. Because of this, I’ll take the 'over' here at the very reasonable number of 154 now showing at early moving books such as 5Dimes for my Thursday NCAAB Pick.

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