UCLA Bruins vs. Arizona State Sun Devils Preview and Pick

UCLA Bruins (24-3) -6, 125 O/U at Arizona State Sun Devils (17-9)
+6, 125 O/U, Wells Fargo Arena, Tempe, Arizona, 10:30 PM Eastern,

by Badger of Predictem.com

With only one week remaining in the regular season schedule the
Arizona State Sun Devils are still sitting on the NCAA Tournament
bubble, thats why a big win at home in the Wells Fargo Arena over
4th-ranked UCLA Thursday night would go a long way toward improving
their tournament position.

It will take a huge effort from the Sun Devils though, as they are
not playing with the consistency of a tournament team right now. The
Devils were able to snap a two-game losing streak with a strong,
77-63, win on the road at Washington Saturday. The win over
Washington was their first one since their big overtime upset of
Stanford on February 14th (72-68), helping to set the stage for a big
finish in the PAC 10 regular season and conference tournament.

UCLA comes into tonights contest with a three-game win streak,
including a sweep of Oregon (75-65) and Oregon State (84-49) last
weekend and a victory over rival USC back on February 17th, 56-46.

Basketball oddsmakers opened the game with UCLA as a 7.5-point
favorite, with a 127-point total. Already most offshore sportsbooks
have dropped the number down to UCLA -6, with a 125-point total. UCLA
is also a strong favorite on the moneyline listed as -280, while
Arizona State is listed at +248.

This game features a matchup of two of the countrys best freshmen,
UCLAs Kevin Love and Arizona States James Harden.

The 6-foot-10 Love leads the Bruins with an average of 17.0 points and
11.0 rebounds per game. In the last 10 games Love has failed to
register a double-double just twice, and both times he only missed it
by one rebound.

The 6-foot-4 Harden averages 18 points and 5.2 rebounds per game for
the Sun Devils. The problem for Arizona State is that when Harden
struggles, the team struggles too. The freshman guard was held to 11
points and 10 points in the Sun Devils two losses to California and
Washington State because he had a hard time finding his shot (4-of-16
vs. Cal; 4-of-18 vs. Wash. St.).

The difference between these two teams is the supporting cast. Love
and UCLA has three other players who average double digits in scoring
(Darren Collison, Josh Shipp and Russell Westbrook), while Harden and
Arizona State has just two other players that reach the same level of
offense (Jeff Pendergraph and Ty Abbott).

Not only does this game feature two of the countrys best freshmen,
it also features two of the best defensive teams in the land. UCLA is
ranked 5th in the NCAA by allowing just 57.9 points per game, while
Arizona State is ranked 35th allowing just 61.8 points a contest.
With hard-nosed defense expected by both teams, its no surprise that
oddsmakers opened the game with a 127 total that has already dropped
a few points lower to 125.

The Sun Devils wont only be playing for the NCAA tournament lives,
but theyll be trying to revenge an embarrassing 84-51 loss at UCLA
earlier this season on January 31st. In that game Harden was held to
just 9 points as the Bruins ran out to a 22-point lead by halftime
and never looked back. The Bruins have dominated the series the past
few years as well, winning seven straight games dating back to 2004.
The only saving grace for the Sun Devils is that they have covered in
four of those seven losses.

UCLA has been good to bettors this season, sporting a 16-8-2 ATS
record. The Bruins have been doing well of late too, going 7-2 ATS in
their last nine games in the PAC 10 and are 8-3 ATS in their last 11
games as the favorite.

Arizona State is just 12-10 ATS for the year, but the Sun Devils do
sport a strong 12-4 ATS record in their last 16 games played on the
Wells Fargo Arena floor (5-2 this season).

Badgers Pick: The Sun Devils are literally playing for their
tournament life. The question is which Sun Devil teams will show up,
the one that looked really good at Washington Saturday, or the one
that slept walked through a disappointing home loss to Cal. Im
figuring on the latter, as the Devils just dont have enough horses
to keep up with the Bruins. UCLA knocks down a few free throws at the
end to make this game a backdoor cover. Take UCLA minus the points.