UCLA has hit some bumps recently, losing back-to-back games at the hands of Arizona and USC, but the Bruins seem poised for a bounce back performance on Thursday. Washington is coming into Pauley Pavilion looking for a rebound of its own after a blowout loss to Arizona, but that’ll be easier said than done against this UCLA defense.
Let’s take a look at the odds and make some picks and predictions for Thursday’s matchup in Los Angeles.
Washington vs. UCLA Prediction & Pick
UCLA should win this one pretty easily. The question is whether the offense is good enough to win in blowout fashion.
Amari Bailey is back, which will help, but the Bruins are averaging 65.9 points per game over their last eight Pac-12 matchups and don’t look like they’re on the verge of a breakout. UCLA beat Utah and Washington by 19+ points but held both to 49 points in the contests.
As strong as Mick Cronin’s defense is (strong enough to make UCLA a Final Four contender), banking on that level of dominance is too much of a risk. Washington +17.5 is my pick.
Washington vs. UCLA Odds
UCLA enters as an 17.5-point home favorite, sitting at -4121 on the moneyline. The over/under is 136.5 points.
For a team that has lost two in a row, there still seems to be a ton of confidence in UCLA. And why not? The Bruins’ offense is a bit of an ongoing concern, but the defense is talented enough to overmatch Washington. Still, 18 points leaves a significant amount of wiggle room for the Huskies to slip in and cover.
Washington vs. UCLA Key Matchups
Washington suffered an ugly loss against UCLA on New Year’s Day, scoring just 49 points at home. The Huskies’ offense is better than that, averaging just under 70 points per game, but it’s not strong enough to beat defenses like this.
Washington shoots 43.3% from the field, including just 32.0% from beyond the arc, with Kentucky transfer Keion Brooks Jr. far and away the top offensive option. UCLA completely shut Brooks down the last time these two met. In a sea of 15+ point performances, Brooks scored 6 points on 1/7 shooting in that effort.
The Bruins clearly know how to defend him well, which is interesting considering they tend to defend the three better than anything and Brooks isn’t much of a three-point shooter. Great defense or not, it’s very likely Brooks plays better than he did that night.
The bigger problems are from his supporting cast, which doesn’t offer much support. Guards Noah Williams and Cole Bajema simply don’t shoot well enough to be the top options behind Brooks, and Washington doesn’t have much going on in the paint with Braxton Meah far too inconsistent. If Washington is going to stay in this game, it needs Brooks to play like he has against the rest of the Pac-12.
Washington’s defense isn’t among the Pac-12’s strongest. The Huskies defend the three well, which has helped against some Pac-12 offenses, but it’s not a great matchup here. UCLA is 334th in the nation with 17.4 three point attempts per game. Only Tyger Campbell and David Singleton regularly shoot threes for the Bruins, with Jaime Jaquez and Jaylen Clark doing much of their work inside the line.
Jaquez is almost certainly going to score some points, while Campbell is one of the most reliable point guards in the nation and helps the Bruins keep turnovers so low. The two x-factors that could turn this into a blowout are Adem Bona and Amari Bailey. Bona erupted for 18 points against the Huskies’ soft interior defense last time around. Bailey, meanwhile, just returned in UCLA’s last game and should boost the offense.
Make no mistake: As talented as UCLA is, the offense has been a problem. The Bruins have scored more than 70 points just twice in their last eight games, well below their early-season numbers. The lack of offense has led to a few close calls and more recently some tough losses.
Bailey’s return will help – he was a big part of UCLA’s early-season success – but he’s not the savior.
The Bruins do boast one of the best defenses in the nation, allowing just 60.6 points per game and slowing down games with their deliberate pace.