Arizona vs UCLA: Betting Odds, Picks, and Predictions (1/25/22)

Arizona vs UCLA Betting Odds

It feels weird that we have such a monumental battle in the Pac-12.

The last time we’ve had a Pac-12 conference matchup between two top-10 teams was back in February of 2017. Believe it or not, UCLA beat Arizona in that game.

History now repeats itself, as No. 3 Arizona will play No. 7 UCLA in Los Angeles.

Arizona remains undefeated in conference play, with its only loss coming at Tennessee. Meanwhile, UCLA recently lost an overtime thriller against a quickly rising Oregon team.

These two teams are very evenly matched in talent and resume, with Arizona being named a short favorite by Vegas.

But can the Wildcats cover laying points at Pauley Pavilion?

Arizona Wildcats Odds

So, Arizona hired former Gonzaga assistant Tommy Lloyd to run the program.

Lloyd currently has the Wildcats looking like the Bulldogs.

Arizona is lengthy, athletic, ruthlessly efficient on the interior, and plays faster than any team in the nation.

Literally. Arizona is:

  • Second in tempo (73.9)
  • First in shortest average possession length (14.5 seconds)
  • Fifth in 2-point shooting (59.2%)
  • First in 2-point defense (38.9%)
  • Third in offensive block rate (5.4%)
  • 11th in defensive block rate (16%)
  • Second in average height (79.3 inches)

The Wildcats do everything else well, but this is their identity. And it looks exactly like what Mark Few has done for years in Spokane.

The starting five is insane. Things mostly revolve around the big men, as Arizona has three guys who are 6-foot-11 or taller, but the whole starting five fits Lloyd’s mold.

Here’s the main rotation including their height and main offensive stats:

  • Point guard Kerr Kriisa: 6-foot-3, 115.7 ORtg, 54.3 eFG%
  • Shooting guard Pelle Larson: 6-foot-5, 113.2 ORtg, 54.3 eFG%
  • Small forward Bennedict Mathurin: 6-foot-6, 120.8 ORtg, 58.7 eFG%
  • Power forward Azuolas Tubelis: 6-foot-11, 114.3 ORtg, 58.4 eFG%
  • Center Christian Koloko: 7-foot-1, 123.4 ORtg, 64 eFG%

That list is as impressive as it comes. But it gets more impressive when you consider how well these huge guys run the floor. Arizona gets out in transition at the 15th highest rate nationally (30.4%) and ranks 13th nationally in transition points per possession (1.199).

This team will outrun you, overpower you, and kill you with efficiency.

Arizona is a legit threat to win the National Championship.

UCLA Bruins Odds

UCLA is a complex team.

UCLA is sub-275 in both the percentage of shots taken at the rim and the percentage of shots taken from 3. UCLA also gets to the line at just an average rate.

Everything from UCLA comes from deep 2-point range. Yet, the Bruins crush from that area of the floor.

Screen Shot 2022 01 24 at 10.57.22 PM

Image credit: CBB Analytics

UCLA isn’t the most efficient offense in terms of effective field goal percentage (51.5%, 115th nationally). But the Bruins take care of the ball (seventh nationally in offensive turnover rate), rebound well (top-40 in both offensive and defensive rebounding rate), and get to their spots.

Because UCLA does all the right things, UCLA averages 63 field goal attempts and 42 2-point attempts per game – both stats rank above the 92nd percentile. From those opportunities, UCLA is dropping almost 80 points per game.

Half of that is due to point guard Tyger Campell, who is the smoothest, savviest, and smartest ball-handler in the country.

The other half is due to UCLA’s elite shot-makers. Jules Bernard, Jaime Jaquez, and Johnny Juzang will burn you in isolation opportunities, where the Bruins drop .97 points per possession (43rd nationally).

This isn’t how basketball teams are supposed to operate in 2022. Coaches are supposed to fine-tune the analytics and get their players to the most efficient spots on the floor.

Mick Cronin doesn’t do that. But he instead plays to the strengths of his players, and it’s worked well so far.

UCLA is also very good defensively. Its 2-through-5 are lengthy, versatile, and can switch everything. The Bruins also are great on the defensive boards, especially with Myles Johnson on the roster.

All in all, the Bruins rank in the 83rd percentile in half-court points per possession allowed.

Arizona vs UCLA Prediction and Pick

My pick: Arizona -2 (-110 at Fox Bet)

This line is already moving up to -3 at some books, so grab this stale -2 as soon as possible.

Because the sharp play is, ironically, on the road favorite.

It’s simply a basketball play, however. Arizona plays exactly like Gonzaga, right? Well, Gonzaga blew out UCLA earlier this season, 83-63.

Your mind may go back to that Final Four game last season. But remember how many ridiculous shots Juzang and Jaquez hit in that one. And ShotQuality had Gonzaga winning in an absolute blowout based on the quality of shots taken and allowed:

Arizona is going to do the same thing.

The other thing that makes me very confident in Arizona is their transition play. As mentioned, the Wildcats are elite running the floor. But I didn’t mention that UCLA is one of the worst transition defenses in the nation – UCLA ranks 341st in transition points per possession allowed.

I love the Wildcats in this spot. But given they’re a road favorite, I’d avoid playing this line past -3.

Post
Tanner joined Lineups to cover everything, but he has vast experience in, and unlimited passion for, Major League Baseball and NCAA Basketball. He’s a McGill University grad and former (Canadian) Division-I alpine ski racer who now spends his time drinking beer and betting home underdogs. Patrick Mahomes is a poor man’s Tom Brady.

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