#5 UCLA Bruins vs #11 Arizona Wildcats (1/21 @ 1:00 PM EST)
Spread: UCLA -1.5
Money Line: UCLA -115 / Arizona -105
Overview and Betting Info
The #5 UCLA Bruins (17-2) will head to Tucson to take on the Arizona Wildcats (16-3) in one of the weekend’s marquee matchups. The Bruins are 8-0 in the PAC 12 while the Wildcats are 5-3. This will be the first matchup between these teams this season.
UCLA has gone 12-7 against the spread this season, including in five of their seven road games. They have gone over the total nine times, including four on the road.
Arizona is 9-10 versus the spread and have covered seven of their thirteen home games. They have gone over the total nine times, five of which were at home.
After back-to-back losses to Illinois and Baylor to begin the season, the Bruins have now won 14 straight games. That streak includes quality wins against Maryland, Kentucky, and an essential game at Arizona State on Thursday. They sputtered for the first 35 minutes in Tempe on Thursday but bounced back to win by 12. It was an impressive performance against a fantastic defense and a wild crowd. They are fourth in the country in point differential (+16.6) and lead the conference in steals (8.84 SPG). UCLA is second in the PAC in scoring (76.6 PPG) and field goal percentage (47.6%), behind Arizona in both categories. The Bruins hold on to the ball well and play smart, ranking sixth in the country with just 9.9 turnovers per game. They are also among the best defensive teams, ranking eleventh in points allowed (59.9). One concern is the frontcourt, as they are sixth in the PAC in blocks (4.21 BPG) and seventh in rebounds (35.4 RPG). They did improve on Thursday, as they had four blocks and outrebounded the Devils 30-25.
The Bruins’ scoring is led by Kaime Jaquez Jr (16.3 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 1.7 SPG) and Jaylen Clark (14.0 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 2.7 SPG). Both are also incredible defenders, combining for over four steals a game. Clark leads the PAC in steals and has registered a steal in his last eleven games, for a total of 32. Though he shot poorly, Clark’s defense was a big part of the Bruins’ comeback on Thursday, as he registered three steals, eight rebounds, and two blocks. Jaquez is fifth in the conference in scoring and fourth in steals. Though he had two steals, Jaquez played poorly Thursday with just nine points and six rebounds. The last time Jaquez was held to single-digits this season, he bounced back the next game for 23 points, 13 rebounds, five blocks, and four steals. He may not reach those numbers on Saturday, but we expect him to have a bounce-back game.
The Bruins have a ton of depth behind their top two scorers, highlighted by Tyger Campbell (13.8 PPG, 4.5 APG, 35.3 3PT%) and David Singleton (10.8 PPG, 45.6 3PT%). Campbell is coming off a game where he scored 22 points without hitting a three. He shot 63% and went 8-9 from the line in some crucial situations. Tyger shoots 35% from three and had attempted at least six in the four games prior, so expect to see that return on Saturday. Singleton is second in the PAC in three-point percentage and is the established leader of this team. He was incredible on Thursday, shooting 70% from the field and 66.7% from three for a total of 21 points. We’ll also be keeping an eye on Adem Bona, as the forward averages 8.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks. He’s been great this month on defense, with 11 blocks over their last four games.
The Wildcats have been incredible in their non-conference play, with wins over Creighton, SDSU, Indiana, and Tennessee. They were one of the top three teams in the country, but PAC 12 play has been a different story. While they went undefeated in non-conference games, their three-season losses came against Utah (13-7), Washington State (9-11), and Oregon (11-8). Two came over their last four games, but the Wildcats changed their lineup and bounced back for a blowout win against a good USC team this week. Despite the struggles, they are eighth in the country in points (84.6), thirteenth in field goal percentage (49.2%), and third in rebounds (42.0). They lead the PAC in scoring, assists, field goal percentage, and rebounds. Turnovers have been their biggest concern, as they are tenth with 14.26 per game.
The Wildcats are led by Azuolas Tubelis (20.2 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 1.1 SPG) and Oumar Ballo (16.1 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 1.6 BPG) this season. Tubelis is one of the country’s elite scorers and leads the PAC in scoring and rebounds. His scoring has been consistent all season, and he’s turned into a rebounding machine of late, averaging 11.4 per game over their last four. Ballo joins Tubelis in the frontcourt, and is second in the PAC in rebounds and field goal percentage (65.2%), and is fifth in blocks. While neither shoot from three, they have feasted on vulnerable front courts all season.
The two big men are supported by a pair of sharpshooters in Kerr Kriisa (10.9 PPG, 6.0 APG, 35.2 3PT%) and Courtney Ramey (10.4 PPG, 1.1 SPG, 41.0 3PT%). Both almost exclusively shoot threes, making them the perfect compliments to their two stars. Ramey has been much better than Kriisa of late and has made 50% of his attempts in his last two games. Kriisa has struggled, making just 23.5% of his three-point attempts over their last four games. He’s also been struggling with turnovers, averaging 3.1 on the season, and now has 11 in his previous three games alone. Keep an eye out for CJ Henderson Jr (7.2 PPG, 36.4 3PT%) as the guard replaced Pelle Larsson in the starting lineup against USC and responded by making 50% of his threes for a total of 16 points.
Free Pick: UCLA -1.5
Arizona owns one of the best homecourt advantages in the country, but it won’t be enough to overcome the Bruins. UCLA got tested in Tempe on Thursday in front of a packed stadium, but still pushed on to win by 12 points. Anyone watching that game would have told you it would end close, but the Bruins’ defense kept them in the game long enough for their offense to take off and cruise to any easy win.
UCLA’s defense is the biggest reason we like them in Tucson on Saturday. Arizona has been struggling with turnovers this season, which is a recipe for disaster against one of the best defenses in the country. Kriisa is struggling to hang on to the ball this season and will be dealing with a pair of Kansas guards that combine for over four steals per game. They are aggressive and will capitalize on the kind of mistakes Arizona has been making.
Add this to how the Wildcats have played in conference, and we see this as an easy pick. We’re giving up the point and a half to roll with the Bruins.