UCLA vs. Arizona NCAA Basketball Preview and Best Bet

Oumar Ballo #11 of the Arizona Wildcats dunks against UCLA. Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images/AFP

The elite of Pac-12 basketball will be on full display as No. 3 UCLA will travel to the desert to take on No. 7 Arizona in the battle for the top of the conference.

Despite last year’s success in the NCAA Tournament, the Pac-12 looks like a three or four-team invite list today to the Big Dance. UCLA (16-2, 9-8-1 ATS) and Arizona (17-2, 11-7-1 ATS) are generally considered no worse than three-seeds at this time and depending on how things shake out in early March, at least one of them could be a top seed.

Though USC’s overall record is comparable to both the Bruins and Wildcats, they lack enough scoring, which is why they are a couple of games behind this twosome. Game 2 in this series for 2022 should be a beauty and we are looking forward to it.

UCLA Bruins vs. Arizona Wildcats

Thursday, February 03, 2022 – 08:00 PM EST at McKale Center

This is a rematch of just nine days ago in Los Angeles, where UCLA won 75-59 as a three-point favorite. On this occasion, sportsbooks like DraftKings have Arizona as 6.5-point favorites.

UCLA Will Lean On Their Experience to Try and Knock off Arizona

Winning at the McKale Center is always a chore for any visiting team. However, coach Mick Cronin teaches tough-minded basketball and by the end of last season, he not only had talented players but one’s willing to do the dirty work and compete as Cronin wanted.

UCLA is hard to defend as they can create size mismatches. Though Johnny Juzang, Jules Bernard and Jaime Jaquez Jr. are all listed as guards, what they really are is wing players, each at 6’7. When matched against opposing guards, they can shoot over most and when going against forwards, they’ll often have a quickness advantage. All three are solid rebounders and playmakers, who have learned to play together.

Cody Riley is the closest thing to a big man for the Bruins at 6’9, complimented by 6’10 Myles Johnson, who’s a glass-eater in his 18 minutes a contest.

Point guard Tyger Campbell might only be 5’11, but he has a great all-around game and superior quickness and leads his team in steals and deflections.

This group of players learned how to win a year ago and after playing for the national championship, they want more this year.

Arizona Can Compete but Will They Finish?

Arizona used to win games just by having superior talent under Lute Olson, that’s not the case anymore and the program is trying to catch up.

First-year head coach Tommy Lloyd has brought the fun back to Arizona basketball, coming from Gonzaga. The Arizona program will at some point face NCAA sanctions from Sean Miller being the coach, but with him gone, the penalties should be less severe.

Lloyd has some very talented players, especially in the backcourt. Bennedict Mathurin is the ‘Cats leading-scorer and at 6’6 is a dependable rebounder and playmaker with an NBA future. His running mate is point guard Kerr Kriisa, who is a strong defender and a better three-point shooter than he’s shown this season.

Backing them are Justin Kier and Dalen Terry, who both average over 20 minutes a game, who Lloyd can mix and match with.

Azuolas Tubelis is a crafty player at 6’11, who has a knack for being in the right place at the right time and 7’0 Christian Koloko is Arizona’s best rebounder and shot-blocker.

Arizona shot a jittery 30.7 percent in the last meeting (Kriisa 0-12) and will need to rise to the occasion.

What Is the Best Side to Be On?

For college basketball picks the spread appears high but the oddsmakers seem presently convinced Jaquez’s lower-body injury will keep him out or limit him.

If UCLA was at full strength we would probably back them, but then the spread would not be as high either. We’ll support the sportsbooks and back Arizona who is 6-0 ATS versus teams allowing 64 or fewer PPG in the second half of the season since 2020 and 13-3 ATS after two or more consecutive unders.

NCAAB Pick: Arizona -6.5 (-110) at DraftKings