The Arizona Wildcats (16-6, 6-3 Pac-12) bring a three-game win streak into Saturday night’s matchup with the UCLA Bruins (12-11, 5-5) at McKale Center. A win would keep Arizona no worse than tied for first (in the loss column) in the conference, with a chance it could end the night alone at the top.
Tip off is set for 8 p.m. MT with the game being shown on ESPN2.
Below are our staff predictions:
Brian J. Pedersen — Arizona wins 73-64
On paper (and in the eyes of analytics like KenPom) this should be an easy game for Arizona. Other than rebounding well and forcing some steals, UCLA doesn’t excel at much and has fallen by double digits in nine of its 11 losses (including the last four in Pac-12 play). But when the Bruins can keep the pace down, turning things into a halfcourt game, they have a better chance of mucking things up enough to stay in it. And if Arizona can’t run it often falls apart on offense, even without its opponent breaking out the Z word.
More than anything, though, this game will come down to how the Wildcats respond to their play in the final 13 minutes against USC and whether their workouts since then included more spirited effort. The only way UA loses here is if it doesn’t try hard enough.
Matthew Rein — Arizona wins 80-63
On Thursday night with 12:56 remaining in the second half, Arizona held a commanding 20 point lead over USC and everything was smooth sailing. Until it wasn’t. USC chipped away at the lead until they eventually got within three. It wasn’t enough for the Trojans.
You’ve got to wonder whether the sour taste from almost blowing another 20 point lead will carry over to Saturday night’s tilt against UCLA. Maybe it will, but I don’t think it will honestly matter.
UCLA is coming off an 18 point loss to ASU, and even though the Bruins have played better of late, they are far less talented than Arizona. If they had beaten ASU or even made it a competitive game, I would give UCLA more of a chance on Saturday, but I don’t see that happening.
BPI gives Arizona a 96% chance to win. Those are pretty decent odds. Frankly, it would take a miracle for UCLA to knock off Arizona at McKale. Maybe Mick Cronin can work up some magic, but even then, I’m not sure it’d be enough.
Ryan Kelapire — Arizona wins 79-66
This should be one of Arizona’s easiest wins in conference play. About the only thing the Bruins do well is rebound, so as long as the Wildcats don’t get killed on the glass they should be fine.
It’d be helpful the Wildcats can control the pace too. UCLA, like all Mick Cronin teams, likes to muck the game up, and Arizona just isn’t nearly as effective in the halfcourt.
Adam Green — Arizona wins 74-60
Outside of the latter part of the game against USC (and really, make some free throws and there’s no complaints), Arizona seems to be playing some good basketball. Facing a UCLA team that is struggling would seem like a recipe for a blowout, so naturally the Wildcats will struggle.
That’s how it works, right? Probably not.
Uncommon for an Arizona/UCLA game, the Wildcats are significantly more talented than their opponent. That doesn’t guarantee a win, of course, but it’s another situation where Arizona will emerge victorious unless they play a dreadful game or the Bruins play out of their minds.
Christian Mortensen — Arizona wins 81-68
Arizona’s offense became non-existent towards the of the USC game, but I’m not expecting the same type of performance at McKale on Saturday night.
This is genuinely one of the worst UCLA team’s of my lifetime and I think the Wildcats will look a lot more fluid offensively against the Bruins than it did in their near-collapse Thursday against the Trojans.
Something is telling me Zeke Nnaji is going to have a big game and while the Mike Cronin’s tepid offense poses a test of the UA’s patience — I think the Cats’ talent will ultimately take advantage of a UCLA defense that is allowing it’s oppnents to shoot nearly 45% from the field this season.
If Arizona is capable of exhibiting some patience offensively and is once again able to limit its turnovers, this one could get ugly.