College Basketball Pick
The showdown over the weekend between Oregon and Arizona was supposed to be a great matchup with two of the best teams in the country. However, the Ducks came out firing and embarrassed ‘Zona 85-68 and finished the day with the best home winning streak in the nation after the Kansas loss. But that excitement can only last so long and Oregon has yet another huge matchup, this time at UCLA.
When these teams met in late December, it was a great Game with tons of points. Oregon had the early lead, but UCLA put together a 13-0 run in the second half and led for almost the entire final 10 minutes. Instead, Dillon Brooks hit a last-second three pointer as Oregon gave UCLA its first loss of the season in an 89-87 win. A similarly high-scoring Game is expected again as that’s the only brand of basketball the Bruins play. Even in their wins, they tend to give up a decent amount of points. But the last time UCLA played at home, it ended in a loss to Arizona. OUtside of that, the Bruins had been dominant, winning most of their Games at Pauley Pavilion by double digits.
Oregon only has three losses, but don’t really have a great road win yet this season. The Ducks escaped at Utah, but lost at Colorado a couple weeks ago. OUtside of that, it’s been easy pickings and this will be their hardest test yet. When these teams first met, there wasn’t much to separate them. Oregon had six players reach at least nine points, while UCLA had five. Both teams made 11 three-pointers, with Oregon’s advantage in free throws possibly the biggest difference as it attempted 13 more.
The interesting part in this Game will be to see how Oregon’s defense plays after completely dominating Arizona last time out. If the Ducks put in that same kind of effort, it could easily lead to a road win. They lead the Pac-12 in a number of defensive categories from efficiency, to block and steal percentage and are near the top in turnover percentage. Of course, UCLA still dropped 87 points in that first Game and didn’t really have any trouble scoring. That said, Lonzo Ball didn’t have his best Game with 14 points, while TJ Leaf only had 13. Both of those totals were under season averages.
This is the type of Game that x-factors have to step up in and that means Isaac Hamilton, Thomas Welsh or Aaron Holiday off the bench. Welsh was great in the first meeting (20 points), but Hamilton struggled a bit and he’s one of two seniors on the team. Hamilton’s biggest challenge is stopping Brooks and Tyler Dorsey from finding any kind of rhythm on the offensive end. Brooks and Dorsey combined to go 10-of-13 from three-point range in the win over Arizona on Saturday. The Bruins are mediocre at best on the defensive end, but to beat good teams like Oregon, they need to step up defensively. If not, Oregon should be able to keep this Game close, even if they are half as good as they were against the Wildcats.
But betting against this Bruins offense at home doesn’t seem like a smart idea, even if their primetime loss to Arizona showed it could happen. With how well Oregon played over the weekend, this may be another one that comes down to the final seconds.
Our Pick – Oregon +5