Prior to a game ever being played this year. The Pac-12 and just about everybody thought the top two teams in the conference would be UCLA and Arizona. Both had some key pieces returning and were also bringing in some incredible recruiting classes. Meaning that both had high expectations. Arizona has so far been better suited to all the hype having lost only one game and currently holding a spot in the top 10 of every poll. UCLA lost some games early and fell slightly out of the national spotlight. Luckily, for them they have found a way to play together and were holding a 10 game win streak prior to their loss to a solid and currently conference leading Oregon team.
Oregon has beaten UCLA and Arizona and on top of both of those wins doesn't have to play either team again this season. This is what you get with the current Pac-12 schedule. I don't like it, but hey Oregon has to be in the best shape of anyone in the conference. If they continue to win the conference title is theirs. I don't think any team will go undefeated in the conference so UCLA and Arizona are still in good shape. The game on Thursday will be a good indication of who is going in the right direction. UCLA lost it's last game to Oregon and a two game losing streak could send this fragile team into a tailspin. A loss for Arizona means that they will have to hope UCLA and Oregon fumble elsewhere or win at Pauley Pavilion later in the season.
This game should be a good one. I still don't like the way UCLA is playing on defense or the way they tend to become 1 on 1 players when they need a big bucket. Take the Oregon game for example. UCLA was down a bucket or two in the closing minutes and suddenly their defense was allowing lay-ups and their offense forgot how to pass the ball. Seriously, it looked like all the guys on the team forgot what an assist was. It was quite incredible to see. I have never witnessed anything quite like that. If UCLA wants to be an elite team and make a deep run in March they have to find a way to stay composed during crunch time.
Arizona still only has the one loss to Oregon and they have a ton of front court depth and talent. Something that UCLA has struggled with. Oregon out rebounded UCLA by 9, but it seemed like a whole lot more. Arizona has even more size than Oregon does and that could pose a problems for the Bruins. UCLA has basically gone to a 4 guard offense. I know that Kyle Anderson is 6-9 and seemingly still growing, but he is still a point guard and isn't strong enough yet to box out guys his own size. Where his advantage is seen on the offensive side of the ball he is still a liability on defense. That's not where the defensive problems end either. Both Shabazz Muhammad and Jordan Adams are lazy on defense. They go for the spectacular play and forget how to play sound defense. They get beat by lesser opponents way too frequently.
Alas, this game is going to leave one team with two losses in conference and have them playing catch up the rest of the season. I expect this game to be played in the 80s and maybe get into the 90s. Both teams are young and most effective in the open floor. There will be a lot of turnovers as well, but that is expected with young talent. Arizona is going to be playing in front of a loud home crowd and UCLA will have to keep it's energy up to stay in the game. Expect Shabazz Muhammad to have a big game. He is due for one of those big break out games and since this game is nationally televised I assume that he is going to be playing for a #1 draft spot next year. UCLA goes into the Mckale Center and beats the Wildcats 84-80.Back to the UCLA Bruins Newsfeed