Washington State vs. UCLA NCAA Basketball Preview and Best Bet

Noah Williams #24 of the Washington State Cougars reacts after a three-point basket against the Washington Huskies. Steph Chambers/Getty Images/AFP

In the Pac-12, the chances of anyone catching Arizona for first place are remote. Instead, No. 13 UCLA wants to fix what’s wrong and be a second or third-seed for the conference tourney to avoid the Wildcats early. Washington State will try and mess up the Bruins plans.

UCLA (17-5, 10-11-1 ATS) is back home after a nasty four-game road trip that saw them post a 1-3 SU and ATS record. The problems were numerous and coach Mick Cronin has a lot to fix to even consider another deep March Madness run.

Washington State (14-10, 11-13 ATS) was quietly having a good season and had won five consecutive conference clashes. However, the last three contests have all been defeats and those good vibes have evaporated and facing both Los Angeles clubs could extend the losing streak.

Washington State Cougars vs. UCLA Bruins

Thursday, February 17, 2022 11:00 PM EST at Pauley Pavilion

Grade-A sportsbooks like BetMGM have UCLA as an 8.5-point home favorite with a total of 130.5. This line opened at 9.5 and we believe Cali money will push it back up to its original number during the course of today.

Washington State Looks to Regain Shooting Eye

Since the start of the season, it was obvious Washington State had limitations on offense. Yes, they proved they could make a good amount of three-balls (nine to be exact) at a rate of one out of three. Yet, overall, the Cougars have hovered in the 41-42 percent range on all shots.

In failing to win three straight, coach Kyle Smith probably has thought about outfitting his team in glasses, as they have connected on only 65 shots in 206 attempts, which is a lamentable 31.5 percent. It doesn’t take a basketball savant to determine when you shoot that bad, no matter how good you play defense, W’s will be hard to come by.

That’s a big reason why Smith preaches defense and that has held up in holding opponents to 40.3% and 62.2 points a game. This gives Washington State a chance to compete and is why so many coaches stress defense because the shots don’t always fall and they help themselves by forcing 15 turnovers a contest.

Still, you have to make a representative amount of shot attempts to give yourself a better chance for a victory and the Cougs need a quick solution.

UCLA Having Shooting Issues of Their Own

After watching how UCLA made so many big shots in last year’s NCAA tournament run and with almost every key player back, it was assumed the Bruins would pick up where they left off.

In UCLA’s past five outings, that has not been close to the case in four of the battles, shooting under 40%.

What’s gone wrong for Cronin’s crew? This observer witnessed three of those off-shooting nights and it appeared the confident strokes have given way to aiming or being too mechanical. Oftentimes, this can be overcome by just relaxing and not thinking about shooting, just letting it go.

What is painfully obvious is the number of attempts that are off-target from 10 feet and in. No question a good number of them are contested, however, not more than normal. It seems the desire to take the ball up strong and purposefully has given way to trying to finesse the orange down the basket, which leads to the ball bouncing out or off the rim.

Let’s face it, when nobody is making shots, any outfit looks like they are not trying as hard. By viewing, the Bruins do not appear to play without much emotion.

Possibly picking up the pace and settling less for a half-court offense would help or maybe taking the ball more to the basket will cause inspiration. If UCLA wants out of this funk, something different has to occur.

What is the Best Side to Be On?

With each team not getting the job done on offense, for college basketball picks we have to look elsewhere. UCLA has a long history of dominance at Pauley Pavilion in this matchup at 20-2 SU, yet, they are just 12-10 ATS.

Though both offenses have had a wayward shooting eye, Washington State is 12-2 ATS in road games after two straight encounters where they made 37% of their shots or lower and 7-0 ATS after scoring 65 points or less in two consecutive contests. With that, the Cougs hang around to cover the spread.

NCAAB Pick: Washington State +8.5 (-110) at BetMGM