Bracketology is starting to take shape with under two months remaining until Selection Sunday, and UCLA has solidified itself as a No. 2 seed until further notice. The Bruins are almost unbeatable when their offense is working, and they haven’t lost since November. Can an inconsistent Colorado team give Mick Cronin’s group a surprise challenge?
Let’s take a look at the odds and make some picks and predictions for Saturday’s matchup in Los Angeles.
Colorado vs. UCLA Odds
UCLA enters as a 12.5-point favorite, sitting at -790 on the moneyline. The over/under is set at 137.5 points.
UCLA looks like a national contender right now, and this line reflects that. When everything is clicking, the Bruins are multiple tiers above the Pac-12’s middling teams, and that’s what Colorado has been. UCLA has survived a couple scares recently. Will Colorado give them another?
Colorado vs. UCLA Prediction & Pick
You need a strong defense to contend for the Final Four, which is why the progress UCLA has made on that end of the floor has been such a great sign for the Bruins’ future. The (lack of) offense has led to some close games of late, but the only real scare UCLA has gotten at home this season came against a USC team that shares the same territory.
I’m confident the Bruins’ defense will put up another big performance against a Colorado offense that relies heavily on two players. Will the offense show up enough to cover -12.5? Between the experience UCLA has and Colorado’s hit-or-miss defense, there should be enough in the tank for a very comfortable home win.
Colorado vs. UCLA Key Matchups
As the season has gone on, defense has taken over as UCLA’s best asset. The Bruins’ offense has arguably disappointed at times, with UCLA’s averages dropping to 77.2 points per game and shooting percentages dropping to still-strong-but-unspectacular range recently.
Mick Cronin’s team has kept winning because the defense has taken a gigantic step forward, making this UCLA team more similar to his Cincinnati teams. The Bruins are coming off three consecutive games in which they held opponents under 60 points, including 49-point performances by Washington and Utah. UCLA hasn’t allowed more than 70 points since November 20, which was also the last game this team lost.
Colorado doesn’t have an abysmal offense by any means, but it’s far from the Pac-12’s best. The Buffaloes especially struggle from three-point range, and UCLA has held opponents to 29.1% from beyond the arc.
Most of Colorado’s offense comes from KJ Simpson and Tristan da Silva. Simpson will make some shots from outside, as he’s done all year, but da Silva feels like the key piece here. He can shoot the three but does more of his work inside the three-point line and can target a UCLA defense that’s softer closer to the basket.
It feels like UCLA will need to get its offense back on track if it wants to make a deep run. Will that be needed to win this game? Probably not, but it’s been the reason for some of the Bruins’ recent scares.
Jaime Jaquez remains Mr. Reliable and is a terrific shot-maker. Jaylen Clark has had a tougher time lately, and UCLA looks like it misses freshman Amari Bailey whose availability for this one is uncertain.
This is still a very smart offense. With one of the lowest turnover rates in the country and grizzled veterans Tyger Campbell and David Singleton in the backcourt, there are still too many reliable scorers for UCLA to be overly concerned with the rest of the unit.
Colorado’s defense has had some great performances lately, holding Oregon to 41 points and going 3-2 over its last five Pac-12 games, but an experienced and well-coached UCLA team is going to be difficult to beat on the road.