Arizona vs. UCLA Picks & Predictions for Saturday: Wildcats Will Be More Dangerous Offensively

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Pelle Larsson #3 of the Arizona Wildcats drives the ball past Tyger Campbell #10 of the UCLA Bruins. Christian Petersen/Getty Images/AFP.

Score Prediction: Arizona 80 – UCLA 70

NCAAB Pick: Arizona +5 (-105) at BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

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Arizona +5 (-105)
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Top sportsbooks have released their NCAAB odds for tonight’s game between Arizona and UCLA.

Most recently, Arizona followed its shocking loss to Arizona State by beating USC on its own court. Now the Wildcats will look to sweep a UCLA team that has won nine straight games since losing at Arizona and at USC.

For reasons that I will explain, you should play both the spread and the total for tonight’s game.

Arizona Wildcats vs. UCLA Bruins

Saturday, March 4, 2023 – 10:00 PM EST at Pauley Pavilion

UCLA’s Offense

With the exception of David Singleton, who has not shot the ball well in conference play and has failed to make more than a three-pointer in any of his last four games, the Bruins do not like to shoot the three. They attempt threes at one of the nation’s lowest rates. Instead, they live inside the arc, where they are especially inclined to attempt mid-range jump shots.

In order to create space inside for their mid-range shooters, they might employ a down screen, seal off defenders near the basket, move defenders away from top shot-taker Jaime Jaquez, who is comfortable operating in isolation, and set ball-screens for point guard Tyger Campbell, who will try to slither his way inside before pulling up.

A defense has to be comfortable daring the Bruins’ outside shooters because, if defenders try too hard to contest them, then spaces inside the paint will open up more easily for potential Bruin scorers.

When the Bruins scored 79 points in their win against Arizona State on Thursday, those spaces inside the paint were too easily available to them. This spatial availability is critical because the Bruins boast multiple guys who are clinical finishers in the mid-range.

Arizona’s Defense in the First Meeting

When these teams first met (Arizona beat UCLA 58-52 on January 21) the Wildcats did a good job of clogging up the paint. To be fair, Wildcats’ defenders have an easier time doing this because they are so lengthy, they are the nation’s 23rd-tallest team.

The effect was to make Bruins’ players uncomfortable when trying to operate in their preferred spaces. When the Bruins set screens for their ball-handlers, Arizona would position a defender to guard the ball-handler in order to prevent dribble penetration inside.

Arizona’s compactness defensively also made it easier to position help defenders so that they could bother Bruins’ players coming off of screens being set for them. Given the Wildcats’ defensive tactics, the Bruins were overly dependent on the offensive glass for points as they achieved a higher rate of offensive rebounds than usual.

When the Wildcats again take advantage of the one-dimensionality of UCLA’s mid-range-dependent offense, the Bruins won’t succeed in accruing as many second-chance points, because Arizona’s nice size helps it have one of the top defensive-rebounding units in the conference. It is also hard for offensive players to grab offensive boards against a defense that contests their teammates’ shots so well.

While one may counter that the Bruins should shoot more effectively from behind the arc than they did in the first meeting, UCLA shot inefficiently from deep because Arizona was clogging up the spaces inside so as to compel weaker Bruins’ shooters, who would rather score inside, to take three-point shots.

Arizona’s Offense in the First Meeting

Arizona’s offense forces defenders to deal with a lot of ball screens. UCLA likes to mix up its ball-screen coverages, and Arizona has an answer for each of them.

One example is Arizona’s response to the Bruins’ inclination to switch. The Wildcats ably counter with high-low actions that suit the elevated role that their normally efficient bigs, Azuolas Tubelis and Oumar Ballo, like to play in their offense by scoring at the basket. Their teammates could throw it over the top to either player with his size advantage at the rim.

The Bruins’ defense will want to swarm and front aggressively to make those passes more difficult.

In tonight’s game, when those passes do arrive, expect the Wildcats to make more out of them than they did in the first meeting. Tubelis missed several shots from point-blank range in that first meeting, which he is unlikely to do in the rematch.


Arizona’s low three-point efficiency is unlikely to repeat itself in this rematch because the Wildcats are one of the nation’s most efficient teams from behind the arc. With a sharpshooter like Courtney Ramey, who can create his own shot but also operate off the ball, the Wildcats can take advantage of the attention that UCLA’s defense must devote inside.

They will stretch out the Bruins’ defense, threatening inside and kicking it back out. Ramey and his teammates missed open three-point shots that they won’t miss with such a high-frequency tonight.

This will be particularly true in transition, where the Wildcats love to attack and where they’ll take advantage of UCLA’s tendency to lose track of shooters in transition; as measured by opposing field goal percentage, the Bruins’ transition defense is generally not remotely as effective as its half-court defense.

While the Bruins will try to score some points off turnovers (the Bruins are especially inclined to trap off their three-quarter-court press), Arizona is generally much more comfortable operating at a fast pace and trying to get quick baskets.

The Verdict

Tonight’s game will be a higher-scoring one in which both teams do a better job taking advantage of the favorable scoring opportunities that they will again create for themselves.

But by using their length to employ a compact defense, by having defenders well-positioned to limit dribble penetration and shooting opportunities generated by screening actions, and by not having to worry about UCLA’s three-point shooting, Arizona’s defense will effectively limit UCLA’s scoring output.

On the other side, the Wildcats will thrive in transition and, in the half-court, via high-low actions, the mobility of especially Tubelis, who is effective in the paint even off the bounce, and via stronger outside shooting.

In sum, the Bruins are too challenged offensively to keep up with Arizona’s more dynamic offense and to succeed against the Wildcats’ length and strategy on defense. So, for your NCAAB picks, expect a Wildcat cover in a higher-scoring affair.

And if you are a resident of the Grand Canyon State looking to bet on this game, feel free to do it at Arizona betting sites.

NCAAB Pick: Over 148 (-110) at BetOnline

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Over 148 (-110)
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*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.