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To the Wild West we go! The PAC-12 owns tonight’s premiere matchup and you are going to have to stay up super late to watch it but I think it’ll be worth our time. #3 Arizona heads to Los Angeles for a massive battle with #7 UCLA. Get ready with a spare energy drink fam, this one tips at 11p ET.
Arizona waltzes in fresh off a game Sunday (a win @ California) and readies as a 2.5-point road favorite. Tommy Lloyd’s crew is well worthy of that respect based on all of their laurels earned this season. They are beating fellow PAC-12 foes by 22.2 point per game. The Wildcats’ offense is humming totaling 88.7 points per game which is second in the nation behind… Gonzaga. Oh, you remember Gonzaga? The team Lloyd was the assistant for a season ago. Turns out offense gets taught at a high-level in Spokane. Arizona hasn’t lost since December 22 and that includes all five games in 2022. Their stride has been hit.
Arizona is going to need a significant effort from star wing Bennedict Mathurin. The team’s leading scorer (17.5ppg) has slowed in his last four games, all conference games, shooting 43.3% from the field (down from 53.3% on the year) and scoring just 12.7 points recently. Five points may not seem like a lot, it could be massive tonight.
UCLA has won 8 of their last 9 games but only covered in three of those games and none of those three were at Pauley Pavilion. Here’s where things are different: fans. UCLA will be allowed to have fans back at the Pavilion for the first time since December 1 and you better believe a packed Pauley will be a difference-maker for the Bruins.
I can tell you how UCLA’s defense hasn’t allowed a team to score 80 in regulation once this season. I can bring up they are only allowing 66 points a game, twenty-two points off of Arizona’s average. I can also recite the other cool and dandy stats like those of Johnny Juzang is killing it lately, averaging 24.5 points per game over the last two weeks. Those are fine. However, my two determinants are as follows: 1) fans – see above, 2) Azuolas Tubelis.
I like UCLA a lot more if Azuolas Tubelis is unavailable for Arizona. As of now his status is unknown. He missed the Wildcats game on Sunday with an ankle sprain suffered three days before against Stanford. If that’s the case, size becomes a significant problem for the Arizona tonight. Folks, to me it’s very, very close but in college basketball a rowdy homecourt is so, so important and such an advantage and that’s why I’ll ride with UCLA tonight not only to cover, but to win outright at (+122).