Submitted by Wayne Allyn Root on Wednesday, January 6, 2016 at 3:17 PM
Wayne Root: #7 Arizona Visits Slumping UCLA Thursday Night
Up until this past weekend, this was shaping up as a battle of ranked teams. It's always a big game when Arizona faces UCLA...but it's even better when both teams are ranked! UCLA was swept in Washington over the weekend though, plummeting out of the AP poll. That just might set up a big upset Thursday...because the Bruins are angry bears who would love nothing better than knocking off the highly regarded Wildcats.
Here in my web articles, I'm about to transition from focusing on the Pac 12 in college football to focusing on the Pac 12 in college basketball. I have to say that the league was ultimately disappointing on the gridiron. Yes, Stanford was a great champion who carried the banner proudly in the Rose Bowl against overrated and outmatched Iowa. But, there were disappointing losses as favorites suffered by Oregon, USC, and UCLA...the teams that the general public typically associates with the league. The fact that the Washington schools both won, and that Utah lucked into a turnover blowout just isn't going to resonate. Fitting that the final bowl game this season was Arizona State allowing almost 700 yards in a loss to West Virginia!
In basketball, Arizona is currently the only Pac 12 team in the top 25! That's a bad sign for the league moving forward. It's disappointing that the Pac 12 keeps moving in the wrong direction in what should be a great sport for them. California is a hotbed for high school hoops. There's plenty of talent to fill these rosters just from that state alone.
In terms of the Big Dance...here are teams hovering in the Top 50...the range it usually takes to get an invitation...according to the computer rankings of Ken Pomeroy...
Arizona is #16
USC is #24
California is #30
Oregon is #37
Oregon State is #41
Utah is #45
Colorado is #51
UCLA is #59
Arizona State is #61
Some points off those rankings...
*Arizona is only #16 with Pomeroy, which is much worse than the poll rankings have them. So, it could be that the Wildcats are a relative pretender compared to national expectations. Just horrible news for the league that nobody's in the top 15 right now by these measures.
*UCLA barely cracks the top 60! So, pollsters were way off what the computers were thinking last week before the Bruins got swept up north. This isn't even a Dance caliber team according to the computers (usually the top 45-50 get in, and the rest of the brackets are filled out by automatic bids from lesser conferences). Time to get serious NOW Bruins!
*Between UCLA and Arizona, there are several "dance caliber" teams who could at least play spoilers in March. It will be interesting to see if any of them rise up to make a run at the rankings. And, that battle between USC and UCLA for bragging rights in the City of Angels could be something special this year. This has a chance to be a very entertaining conference. And, if the computers and market are underrating them right now...a chance to be an important conference in March.
*Where did Stanford go?! They're barely in Pomeroy's top 100 right now at #93. Too many programs trending in the wrong direction.
Frankly, if the Pac 12 is just going to be Arizona and the 11 dwarfs in the national picture, I may not spend too much time talking about them this season! I'll focus instead on my roots in the Big East, or maybe drift over to the top TV conferences on ESPN. For now, let's stay in my backyard and talk about the two most legendary programs.
Defensive Rebounds in particular
Fairly good on offense, though the defense ranks higher
Typical balance for Arizona, with an emphasis on winning with defense. That's probably good enough to win the Pac 12...but this isn't an across-the-board great team that measures up with the elite just yet. Maybe they'll start to show that Thursday night.
The offense is okay, but nothing not great
Defense has been a big disappointment for UCLA. And, late game poise was lacking last weekend. It's amazing that this team defeated both Kentucky and Gonzaga not too long ago! Since that Gonzaga victory, UCLA is 0-5 against the spread. They're only 2-3 straight up even though they were favored to win four of the five.
Thursday night represents a big test. Can the team that beat Kentucky and Gonzaga regain its focus for the biggest conference home game of the year? Or is this were Arizona sets the tone for the conference campaign with a clean victory?
If I'm playing this game for clients...I can't post the pick here in a free web article. I can tell you that I have big plays on tap for both Wednesday and Thursday nights on the busy hoop slate. And, that will help us build bankroll for huge stuff in the NFL over Wildcard Weekend along with the college football championship Monday Night. The money you win in weekend football will be greatly influenced by the money you earn before then in the baskets!
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See you at the end of the week to talk about SHOCKER potential in WILDCARD WEEKEND. Can any of the dogs advance? Isn't it interesting that both #6 seeds are actually road favorites? Sounds ideal for a contrarian handicapper. That means it's time for you to go to W.A.R. alongside WAYNE ALLYN ROOT!