Pac-12 Preview: Arizona at UCLA

Pac-12 Preview: Arizona at UCLA

UCLA Bruins vs. Arizona Wildcats

Line: UCLA -5

Total: 148

Where: Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles, California

When: Saturday, 3/4 at 10:00 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

No. 4 UCLA will try to complete a perfect 17-0 season at Pauley Pavilion when it hosts No. 8 Arizona in a Pac-12 showdown on Saturday night.

The Bruins remained perfect at home with their 79-61 thrashing of Arizona State on Thursday, improving to 26-4 (17-2 Pac-12) overall this season. They clinched the regular-season title last weekend and hold a three-game lead over the Wildcats in the standings.

Arizona secured the No. 2 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament with its 87-81 win at USC on Thursday, and it has a chance to sweep the season series between these teams after notching a 58-52 win in the Jan. 21 meeting. The Wildcats were 2-point home favorites in a game that went well ‘under’ the total of 149.

Oddsmakers have not made much of an adjustment as far as the total is concerned, opening it at 148 on Friday afternoon. UCLA opened as 5.5-point favorite to extend its nine-game winning streak and complete its perfect season at home. The Bruins, who are down to -5 this morning, are 5-1 against the spread in their last six home games against Arizona.

Veteran Jaime Jacquez Jr. will play the final home game of his illustrious career on Saturday, looking to add to his resume for Pac-12 Player of the Year. He is averaging 17.3 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game.

“We’re just going to try to have as much fun as we can,” Jacquez said. “I feel like every time I’m on the floor I just keep smiling and am just so happy to be playing with these guys. We’ve built something so special here.”

The Bruins have built it with a defense that ranks second in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency ratings (behind Tennessee), allowing just 59.7 points per game. They also have the seventh-highest defensive turnover rate in the country.

UCLA’s offense has not been quite as impressive, ranked outside the top 110 in 3-point percentage (35.2), 2-point percentage (50.8) and free-throw percentage (70.9). Their strength has been a low turnover rate and a high offensive rebounding rate, which are both inside the top 35 in KenPom’s metrics.

The Bruins did enough defensively to limit one of the best offensive teams in college basketball when these teams met the first time, but their offense did not come through in the end. They will need more scoring on Saturday night against an Arizona offense that ranks fourth in effective field goal percentage (56.6).

Forward Azuolas Tubelis is hoping to become the seventh player in Pac-12 history to lead the conference in scoring and rebounding, averaging 19.7 points and 9.1 rebounds. He poured in 25 points and completed his double-double with 10 rebounds against USC in a game that Arizona nearly led from start to finish.

“I thought Zu was back to how he was playing earlier in the year,” Arizona head coach Tommy Lloyd said. “I knew he would. He’s such a high-character good guy.”

The Wildcats are 8-3-1 ATS in their last 12 games, going ‘over’ the total in five of their last six. UCLA is 13-6 ATS in its last 19 games against Arizona and has gone ‘under’ in 13 of its last 19 games.

The pick: Arizona +5

If you read my previews with any sort of frequency, you probably could have guessed where I was going with this pick. Arizona is my pick to win the national title right now, and the Wildcats continue to cover spreads at a high rate late in the season. I love how much offensive firepower they have, which makes them particularly dangerous as two-possession underdogs. Their size gave UCLA some major issues in the first meeting, and I don’t expect those to be magically solved in the rematch. This should be one of the best games of the season…we’re continuously blessed with great basketball games at this time of the year.

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