UCLA (8-3) vs Kentucky (9-1)
When: Saturday, December 23rd 2017
Where: Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, LA
Time: 4:00 ET | TV: CBS
Opening Odds: Kentucky -6.5/157
For the fifth time in the last four years, two basketball bluebloods will meet on the court as the Kentucky Wildcats battle the UCLA Bruins on Saturday afternoon in the CBS Sports Classic from New Orleans. UCLA is coming off one of its best seasons in years and it included an early-season upset win at then-undefeated Kentucky, only to end their season four months later in the NCAA Tournament to the same Wildcats team. Only four players who saw action in either game remain from last year’s battles. Led by future first-round NBA Draft picks Lonzo Ball and T.J. Leaf, the Bruins ended the Wildcats’ 42-game winning streak at Rupp Arena en route to a 13-0 start. Kentucky got the last laugh in the Sweet 16, as De’Aaron Fox – one of Kentucky’s three first-round selections last season – set an NCAA Tournament single-game scoring record for a freshman with 39 points in an 86-75 victory. Both teams have struggled a bit early in this new season, although the sixth-ranked Wildcats bounced back from a November loss to Kansas with a 93-86 win over Virginia Tech last Saturday. UCLA is already two losses shy of matching last year’s 31-5 team and enters this weekend coming off a less-than-stellar 85-82 victory over South Dakota on Tuesday after nearly blowing a 24-point lead with just over five minutes remaining.
Junior guard Aaron Holiday leads UCLA in points (17.4), assists (5.4), and steals (1.8), while senior center Thomas Welsh is also a force with 13.2 points and 10.6 rebounds a game. Those are two of the three Bruins to play versus the Wildcats last year and are also two of five UCLA players averaging at least 10 points. Holiday has scored at least 14 points in each of his last eight games and is 37 points away from becoming the 13th Bruin to record 1,000 points and 300 assists in his career. Welsh, who has seven double-doubles this season, has at least eight rebounds in every game and is 24 points and six rebounds shy of becoming the 12th UCLA player with 1,000 points and 800 boards in his career.
The Wildcats drained a season-high 11 three-pointers against the Hokies, but rank 342nd in the nation in made 3-pointers (52). SEC Freshman of the Week Hamidou Diallo (15.2 points) has been deserving of that award over his last four games, scoring 20.3 points per, while converting 53.6% of his field-goal attempts. Fellow freshman Kevin Knox (15.8) bounced back from his worst offensive effort of the season in a December 9th win over Monmouth (four points on 1-of-9 from the field) to finish with 21 points, and he has posted three of his four 20-point performances over the last four games. Freshman guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (10.0 points) leads the Wildcats in assists (4.1) while also leading the SEC in steals (2.3), recording at least one in every game.
I like the experience on this UCLA team in this matchup. They have also played a little tougher schedule than Kentucky has and should be able to hang with the Wildcats on a neural floor.
Pick: UCLA +7.5
- Wildcats are 4-0-2 ATS in their last 6 games vs. a team with a winning % above .600.
- Wildcats are 3-0-2 ATS in their last 5 neutral site games.
- Wildcats are 4-0-2 ATS in their last 6 games vs. a team with a winning straight up record.
- Wildcats are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games following a straight up win.
- Wildcats are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games overall.
- Wildcats are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 non-conference games.
- Wildcats are 13-5-1 ATS in their last 19 games after scoring more than 90 points in their previous game.
- Wildcats are 5-2 ATS in their last 7 vs. Pacific-12.
- Bruins are 10-25 ATS in their last 35 games overall.
- Bruins are 3-8 ATS in their last 11 games following a ATS loss.
- Bruins are 3-9 ATS in their last 12 games following a straight up win.
- Bruins are 2-6 ATS in their last 8 neutral site games.
- Bruins are 5-17 ATS in their last 22 games vs. a team with a winning straight up record.
- Bruins are 3-11 ATS in their last 14 vs. Southeastern.
- Bruins are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 non-conference games.
- Bruins are 0-5 ATS in their last 5 games vs. a team with a winning % above .600.
- Over is 5-0 in Wildcats last 5 overall.
- Over is 5-0 in Wildcats last 5 non-conference games.
- Over is 4-0 in Wildcats last 4 Saturday games.
- Over is 5-0 in Wildcats last 5 games following a straight up win.
- Under is 6-1 in Wildcats last 7 neutral site games.
- Under is 9-2 in Wildcats last 11 games vs. a team with a winning % above .600.
- Over is 4-1 in Wildcats last 5 games after scoring more than 90 points in their previous game.
- Under is 4-1 in Bruins last 5 neutral site games.
- Over is 5-2 in Bruins last 7 games following a ATS loss.
- Over is 5-2 in Bruins last 7 games following a straight up win.
- Wildcats are 2-5 ATS in the last 7 meetings.