Preview & Prediction: By Fairway Jay
Arizona (11-5, 2-2) travels to LA and Pauley Pavilion to take on #9 UCLA (13-2,3-0) in the final game of the night. UCLA comes off an intense defensive effort and 64-60 victory over crosstown rival USC last Sunday and the defending Pac-10 champions have opened conference play with three-straight road wins. The Bruins have beaten Arizona seven straight times, and another win is likely with the Wildcats struggles on the road.
Arizona has yet to win away from home with three of their four road losses by 14 or more points. Arizona coach Russ Pennell put the Wildcats through some intense practices following a lackluster effort at Stanford January 4th. A similar lack of will to win surfaced at UNLV and California in defeat. The Wildcats will run some zone traps and press at times, but a lack of depth is a concern. Chase Budinger overcame some recent shooting struggles to score 44 points in the Wildcats recent two games against the weaker Oregon schools. Freshman guard Kyle Fogg has been a pleasant surprise and now starts. He provides a good ball defender to help Nic Wise on the perimeter along with Arizona’s strength inside with Jordan Hill. Jamelle Horn has provided improved play on the interior, but UCLA has a way of wearing down opponents.
The Bruins possess one of the nation’s premier point guards in Darren Collison. The senior’s invaluable experience, floor presence and ability to pass and score make all the players around him much better. Collison is hitting 57% of his shots this season while dishing out over 5.5 assists per game and providing great on the ball pressure defense. Freshman guard Jrue Holiday is playing with great poise and promise and is way ahead of the curve for a freshman according to coach Howland. Josh Shipp continues to provide veteran leadership and proven production while Alfred Aboya is the Bruins key player in the paint. Nikola Dragovic comes off the bench and is a 6-9 swingman that plays like a perimeter player and can guard the opponent’s #4 inside. Michael Roll has made over 55% of his shots coming off the bench and UCLA is the Pac-10’s top shooting team from the 3-point line (45%) while Arizona is last in the league shooting from the arch (21%) in conference play.
Arizona is not a team to trust playing on the road, and the Wildcats are ninth in turnovers and assist/turnover ratio in conference play. That doesn’t sound like a formula for success facing the Bruins pressure defense and a team that limits transition baskets. UCLA’s bigger challenge will come Saturday against Arizona State, and the Bruins will win this by double digits if they play to their potential.
Winner: UCLA Margin: 10-15 points
- Bracketology: Selection Sunday Projection
- Bracketology: Saturday Night NCAA Tournament Projection
- Non-BCS Top 25: Creighton, Colorado St Rise
- College Basketball Top 50: Indiana Ends Regular Season #1
- Non-BCS Top 25: Valpo Replaces BYU
- College Basketball Top 50: Maryland and Iowa St Drop Out
- Non-BCS Top 25: Davidson In, Wyoming Out
- College Basketball Top 50: #2 Gonzaga Hits All-Time High
- Non-BCS Top 25: Air Force, Davidson Making Moves
- College Basketball Top 50: Another Week, Another #1
About Fairway Jay
Previews & Predictions
Jay Ginsbach, also known as "Fairway Jay’"joins the CHN team and staff this season from Sportsmemo.com. He’ll provide his insight and expertise covering the college basketball scene with periodic thoughts from a Las Vegas perspective.