UCLA Vs. Washington State Prediction, Picks, NCAAB Odds (12/30/22)

After taking a back seat for football during the holidays, college basketball is back with conference play leading the show. The Pac 12 steals the show with an intriguing matchup tonight as the UCLA Bruins take on the Washington State Cougars. UCLA looks every bit as a national title contender with their continuity leading them to immediate success. The offense is as lethal as it gets and will be a handful for the Cougars. Do they take care of business tonight?

UCLA Vs. Washington State Odds

Oddsmakers think so, opening the Bruins as a -9.5 favorite on the road. Bettors disagree, backing the Cougars all the way down to -8.5. This number is intriguing due to the situational spot. It is never easy for a team to cover near double digits while on the road, yet Washington State is in a potential sleepy spot in their return from a trip to Hawaii. If Washington State’s offense is lackluster from the start, they will have trouble keeping scoring pace with the Bruins.

As for the total, points are expected to be scored at a moderate pace as they opened the number at 133.5. Bettors are in agreement, keeping the number at the open with slight dips to 133 as of writing. This brings some intrigue as the brunt of UCLA success has been on their versatile scoring ability, but they are vastly undersized in this matchup which may negate their open looks at the rim throughout the course of the game.

UCLA Vs. Washington State Prediction & Pick

The Pick: Wait on UCLA spread

It’s never settling to back a team on the road to cover such a large spread, but I still am confident in UCLA’s ability to do so as they are far superior on both ends of the court. This is a potential championship level team that is very well balanced and capable of beating anyone. While I wouldn’t mind taking them at the current number, I will wait to see if this ticks any lower to give some added security.

A brunt of their success has been from their offense, a unit that is ranked sixth in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency per Kenpom. They score in multiple levels with ease, burying you from deep or attacking the middle with clean looks in the mid-range. Even while undersized, UCLA is brilliant in half court sets and uses their motion to free up high quality looks at attacking the rim.

A majority of their scoring production comes from guard play as four of them are in double figures while only playing eight players meaningful minutes. In fact, only two of the eight players playing more than 10 minutes per game are listed as forwards.

While this would normally be a cause for concern, UCLA is so efficient with their perimeter looks that they negate the usual mismatch down low. They shoot the deep ball at a high rate, hitting at 37% and stretching out opposing defenses. Giving more room to work with in the mid-range, UCLA in turn burns opponents with consistent mid-range looks that are frustrating to deal with.

Because of their innate ability to hit the mid-range at an elite level, this forces opposing defenses to either give up the perimeter or bring the big man up from the post. When that happens, UCLA’s facilitation buries you as their vision leads to higher quality looks while the defense scrambles to plug the holes. Simply put, this offense will be too much for the weak Cougars unit to defend.

UCLA Vs. Washington State Key Matchups

Can UCLA’s defense hold up while severely undersized?

Washington State post play vs UCLA paint protection

The Bruins defense has been just as crisp as their offense, ranking 10th in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency. This is a Havoc minded unit, pressuring opposing offenses into bad passes and stalled out drives.

This is no different for when they defend the post, making big men uncomfortable anytime they bring the ball to the floor. Crashing the paint to force them into bad kickouts or low quality looks at the rim, UCLA’s pressure will be too much for Wazzo’s bigs to overcome.

In turn, UCLA will then use that Havoc minded defense to turn into fast break situations and put up points in a hurry. Washington State prefers a slow pace of play, showing to be uncomfortable in transition. Not ideal for the Cougars upset hopes.

Verdict

While I like UCLA’s potential to cover the large number in a situational spot, I will wait to see if this number continues to tick down in our favor before tipoff.

Kody is a sports betting writer here at Lineups. He specializes in college sports as well as the NFL and NBA. He won’t quit believing in the Lions Super Bowl chances even when they are eliminated.

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