Preseason expectations were sky high for UCLA. They closed the season on a run from the First Four to the Final Four this past season, playing in some of the most exciting basketball games in the NCAA Tournament.
Then every player of significance returned, plus they added a 5-star freshman and a significant transfer. They were near the top of the rankings to start the season and it wasn’t just hype. It was easy to make a case that they should have been the favorite to win the title this season.
Then they lost to Gonzaga, Oregon, Arizona, and Arizona State. So, who are the Bruins? Is it still too early to tell?
If it is too soon to know, perhaps we should also be reserving judgment on Oregon too. The Ducks have talent and generally have peaked late in the season for coach Dana Altman. They have three losses in their last four games and that hurts their March Madness chances. But is this the perfect time to back them?
UCLA Bruins vs. Oregon Ducks College Basketball Matchup Info and Betting Odds
- Game Matchup: UCLA Bruins (20-5, 12-4 Pac-12, 2nd in the Pac-12) vs. Oregon Ducks (17-10, 10-6 Pac-12, 4th in Pac-12)
- Venue & Location: Matthew Knight Arena (Eugene, Oregon)
- Date: Thursday, February 24, 2022
- Time: 9:30 p.m. ET
- TV: ESPN
- Spread: UCLA -3.5 (-105), Oregon +3.5 (-115)
- Total: OVER 136.5 (-110), UNDER 136.5 (-110)
- Moneyline: UCLA -165, Oregon +135
Odds are via BetMGM.
Do UCLA’s Losses Make It Hard to Judge Who They Are?
The UCLA hype was not an exaggeration. Naysayers want to point out they barely got into the NCAA Tournament last season and if they hadn’t won like they did that they would not have been on anyone’s radar. That is true, but why would you pretend that didn’t happen?
The simple fact is that all five starters returned from a Final Four team, including good players like Johnny Juzang, who might be in the NBA next season. To that group, they added Myles Johnson from Rutgers, one of the best defensive centers in the country, and Peyton Watson, a freshman forward who talent evaluators just love.
If you are looking at their top seven, it is hard to beat UCLA on talent.
That is what makes their losses so concerning. It started with getting dominated by Gonzaga. In theory, there is nothing wrong with losing to the Zags, but the Bruins were non-competitive in that one.
That was their only loss out of conference but in Pac-12 play but, in the league, they have stumbled in some unexpected spots like at Arizona State. The game went to triple overtime but should have been a 30-point win.
We are at a point in the season where preseason expectations shouldn’t really matter. But it is hard to know whether the Bruins are as elite as advertised or if they are St. Mary’s with a better brand.
These Ducks Can Fly
The Ducks are hosting UCLA and USC back-to-back, games that may make or break their NCAA Tournament resume.
Last month they were still scuffling when they went down to SoCal and beat the Bruins and Trojans. That was in the middle of a six-game winning streak and a stretch of ten wins in 11 games that showed what the Ducks could be.
There is a lot to like about this team, which has a little bit of everything.
When it comes to experience at guard it is hard to beat Will Richardson and Jacob Young, who are both seniors. Young is another Rutgers transfer who went West like Johnson, and he has panned out pretty well. Richardson is having a fine final season for the Ducks, showing he can still be efficient even as the featured scorer.
In addition to those two the Ducks have a quality big man in N’Faly Dante, and Quincy Guerrier is a versatile forward from Syracuse that has yet to be unlocked.
USC is Next for Oregon
Oregon is not going to be able to catch Arizona at the top of the Pac-12 standings. However, if they beat UCLA and beat USC again as a follow-up, they could finish second in the conference. That would be a pretty astounding feat given how bad they have looked at times this season.
I would definitely be looking to back the Ducks against USC, win or lose tonight. They beat the Trojans by ten when they met in Los Angeles earlier in the season and match up really well with them.
UCLA Bruins vs. Oregon Ducks Prediction & Picks
Oregon 75, UCLA 73 (Oregon +3.5 & OVER 136.5)
When these teams met at UCLA, Oregon won by three in overtime. It was a pretty close game throughout.
Both teams were led by a leading scorer who had 23 points in the game, Young for Oregon and Juzang for UCLA. Beyond that, both teams really spread around the scoring too with six players in total scoring 10+ for the Ducks and five players reaching that level of production for the Bruins.
I would look for a similar kind of game in this one. Both teams are well coached and match up well athletically so it will be tough for either team to get a sustained advantage.
Both teams have players who have seen a lot of action in big games too with both of these programs advancing in the NCAA Tournament last season. They also both brought n players from teams that are in major conferences and were in the NCAA Tournament last season as well.
This is going to feel like a big game and the home team is going to be a little more urgent. That is going to be enough for the Ducks to get a win and boost their March Madness hopes.