Pick – Analysis
It’s been a brutal season for the Pac-12 and that’s highlighted by both of these teams. UCLA already has six losses, yet leads the Conference with a 2-0 record behind interim head coach Murry Bartow. Oregon is in a little different situation, mainly because it lost its Conference opener at home to Oregon State and won’t have top player Bol Bol for the rest of the season (and big man Kenny Wooten for 4-6 weeks). The Conference is still up for grabs and both of these teams are in the conversation, though Oregon could be out of it soon.
It’s been a weird season for the Ducks from beating Syracuse to losing at home to Texas Southern and Oregon State. The Beavers aren’t a bad team this year, but Oregon clearly has a major problem without Bol, who was averaging 21 points and 9.6 boards per Game. And while UCLA has back-to-back wins, it’s hard putting much into home Games over Stanford and Cal. This team is talented, but there are still tons of defensive questions surrounding them and they still haven’t won a Game away from home.
Without Bol, the Ducks are at a serious talent disadvantage in this matchup. Payton Pritchard is now Oregon’s best player and someone that has to play close to 40 minutes per Game. He’s good, but still not a guy that’s going to go for 20 points per Game because he’s best as a second option, someone that runs the offense with 4.6 assists per Game. Freshman Louis King has taken up a bigger role without Bol and while he’s had some better outings, he has a little too much on his shoulders and hasn’t been efficient shooting 32.8% from the floor. OUtside of Pritchard, no one else on the team is averaging more than 10 points per Game, though Paul White and Victor Bailey should both be above that level by season’s end since someone has to take Bol’s 21 points. Another problem for this Game is that Kenny Wooten is also out with a broken jaw, which takes away Oregon’s defensive presence in the paint.
The best way Oregon has to win this Game is through defense and it’s without two players that averaged a combined 4.3 blocks per Game. Defensive issues showed up against Oregon State and now it has to stop the talent of UCLA. When on their Game, the Bruins can Scoreagainst most defenses and going against a depleted roster should help even more.
Kris Wilkes, Jaylen Hands and Moses Brown have all been inconsistent, but all can produce when needed. Brown, a 7-1 freshman, may be the biggest key because he should have the edge against whatever Oregon has in the frontcOurt between White, King and freshman Francis Okoro. If Brown can repeat what he’s done the last couple Games with a double-double, it’ll be tough for Oregon to pull this Game out, even at home. That’s because Wilkes is a guaranteed scorer at 17.3 points per Game and the rest of the UCLA guys should find points somewhere. Hands runs the show with 6.9 assists per Game, while guys like Prince Ali and Chris Smith have played better under the new interim coach.
Coming off a home loss, it’ll be difficult to throw money on Oregon given the injury situation. The Ducks have to rely on inexperienced players like Louis King, Francis Okoro and Will Richardson more than usual and that’s a hard thing to bet on. At least for UCLA, it’s had the same guys most of the season and has maybe the three most talented players in the Game. Then again, betting on this UCLA team on the road won’t be easy.
Our Pick – UCLA +3.5