Arizona (13-1, 1-0) at UCLA (9-6, 0-2)
When: Thursday, January 7th 2016
Where: Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles, CA
Time: 9:00 ET | TV: ESPN2
The UCLA Bruins look to avoid an 0-3 PAC-12 start when they host the Arizona Wildcats on Thursday night in Los Angeles. The Bruins lost both games in the state of Washington last week to the Huskies (96-93 OT) and the Cougars (85-78) and coach Steve Alford is not happy. His son, Bryce Alford, was limited to just 9 points at Washington State, but still leads the team in scoring at 16.9 a game. His shooting has not been very good lately going 14-of-55 over his last four games and is 14-for-44 against ranked teams this season. The Bruins have been impressed lately with guard Isaac Hamilton, who scored a season-high 27 points on 12-of-22 shooting against the Cougars. UCLA does have a couple of impressive non-conference wins over Kentucky and Gonzaga, but lost 89-76 to North Carolina on December 19th. UCLA will have 7-foot sophomore Thomas Welsh and 6-9, 260-pound senior Tony Parker at the starting forward positions, and Welsh is coming off his third straight double-double after Parker produced three in a row to start the season and owns seven overall. Russell Westbrook, a former star at UCLA and four-time NBA All-Star, will be recognized at halftime for his significant financial contribution toward the Mo Ostin Basketball Center.
The Arizona Wildcats come in riding an eight-game winning streak and a +16 rebounding edge per game this season. Arizona coach Sean Miller told reporters this week that he’s planning to put 7-footers Kaleb Tarczewski and Dusan Ristic on the floor together to offset some of UCLA’s size up front. Ristic came back from a six-game injury absence and contributed 10 points in Arizona’s 94-82 PAC-12 opening win over rival Arizona State. The Wildcats shot 55.6% from the field in that game including 7-of-12 from beyond the arc. Gabe York added 22 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists in the contest, but the hottest player for the Wildcats continues to be freshman shooting guard Allonzo Trier. He’s averaging 18 points over the last six games and has scored 20 in each of the last two. The Wildcats are ranked 54th in the nation in scoring (80.0) and have scored 82 or more points in six consecutive games. Arizona swept the Bruins last year, but failed to cover the spread in both of those games. Arizona has been betting-friendly as of late covering seven of their last eight overall.
It’s really tough to take road favorites in any conference game, but I’m going to do it here. I think Arizona is a Final Four caliber team. UCLA is struggling with their shooting especially Alford. The Wildcats won here last year, so I think they’ll do it again.
Pick: Arizona -3