Oregon guard Chris Duarte (5) reacts after making a three-point shot during the second half of an NCAA college basketball Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020 in Eugene, Ore. (AP Photo/Andy Nelson)
- Oregon has won three straight games and eight of nine as its prepares to host UCLA in a Pac-12 makeup game at 9:00 pm ET on Wednesday
- UCLA had a four-game winning streak broke in its last outing at Colorado, setting up this battle for first place in the league
- Check the odds, analysis and betting predictions below
With first place on the line, Oregon (16-5, 12-4 Pac-12) will bring a three-game winning streak into its final regular-season home game against league-leading UCLA at 9:00 pm ET on Wednesday. The Ducks have won eight of nine.
UCLA (17-6, 13-4) has won four of five games, and the Bruins took over first place when then-No. 19 USC (19-6, 13-5) lost twice last week. UCLA vs Oregon was originally scheduled to be played Jan. 28 in Los Angeles.
UCLA vs Oregon Odds
|UCLA Bruins||+160||+4 (-110)||O 135.5 (-116)|
|Oregon Ducks||-190||-4 (-110)||U 135.5 (-106)|
Odds from FanDuel on March 2.
The Pac-12 added this game to the schedule last week in an attempt to insure integrity at the top of the league race. Pac-12 teams do not play a full round-robin schedule, and this will be the only meeting between UCLA and Oregon this season. Oregon and USC also will play only once.
UCLA is in position to win its first regular-seasons title since 2013. Oregon won the regular-season last year and has won four of the last six. The Ducks will claim the title this season with wins over UCLA and Oregon State in the season finale Sunday.
Oregon Extends a Trend
A signature mark of coach Dana Altman’s Oregon teams is that they get better as the season progresses, and the Ducks are doing it again, even in this pandemic-challenged season. It is Altman’s 11th in the program.
The Ducks have swept Arizona and beaten Pac-12 contender Colorado while winning eight of their last nine games. Their only only was at USC, when the Trojans scored 17 of the first 18 points in a 72-58 victory on Feb. 22. That was Oregon’s third game in five days.
Altman’s success is a trend worth noting. Oregon was 105-45 in games player after Feb. 1 in Altman’s first his seasons in Eugene, and it is 56-20 in games played after March 1. The run includes six NCAA tournament appearances and a trip to the 2017 Final Four, when the Ducks lost to eventual champion North Carolina in the semifinals.
The Ducks are led by Pac-12 player of the year candidate Chris Duarte, a 6-6 guard who is averaging 17.9 points and 4.3 rebounds per game and had 22 points against Arizona on Monday. Forward Eugene Omoruyi had 21 points against the Wildcats, his 20th double-figure game of the year.
UCLA Finds a New Big Gun
Transfer guard Johnny Juzang has become the Bruins’ primary scorer down the stretch, a fit coach Mick Cronin has found athletic small forward Chris Smith, the returning leading scorer and the focal point of the offense early on, suffered a season-ending knee injury in January.
Juzang, 6-foot-6, is averaging 20.2 points and six rebounds per game in UCLA’s last six games, since a blowout 66-48 defeat at USC, and and he has made 19 of 41 3-pointers (46.3%) in that stretch. Juzang has games of 25, 32 and 25 points in the last six, including 25 in a 70-61 loss at Colorado that halted a four-game winning streak Saturday.
Hs is a volume shooter. Despite missing four games, Juzang leads the Bruins in field goal attempts and is averaging 13.1 attempts per game, 7.3 threes. He has made 42 of 45 free throw attempts (93.3%) this season.
Bruins’ guard Tyger Campbell is averaging 5.6 assists per game, sixth among Power Six players.
Advice from the Experts
The Ducks will be playing their seven game in 14 days, their third against a title contender, as they catch up from the Covid-19 pause that hit the program in February. UCLA has had it only a little better, having played five games in 10 days beginning Feb. 18 before getting a three-game break before Oregon.
Altman has consulted friends in the NBA on ways to handle the heavy workload, and he said he was told to go light in practice, “get guys loose and get ’em out of there (gym). They have to have energy at game time.”
The Ducks did not practice the day before their 80-69 victory over Arizona on Monday and went through a light shoot-around the day of the day of that game. Altman said he planned to do the same in preparation for UCLA — no practice Tuesday and a light game-day shoot-around.
By the Numbers
UCLA is 5-4 on the Pac-12 road this season and has won a league-leading 10 conference road games the last two years, but the Bruins have been a go-against for the last two months.
Since covering the nine-point number in a 91-61 home victory over Washington State on Jan. 14, the Bruins are 2-9 ATS and is 1-6 ATS on the road. They are 1-2 as a Pac-12 road dog and have lost the last two. They have been under the total in five of their last eight.
Oregon is 5-3 ATS in its last eight games but only 3-5 ATS at home in league play, all as a favorite.
Oregon and UCLA are ranked 39-40 in KenPom in average efficiency margin, third and fourth among Pac-12 teams. Th Bruins are 20th in offensive efficiency margin and the Ducks are 26th. The Ducks are ranked No. 24 in the coaches’ poll.
It is hard to ignore Oregon’s recent push.
The pick: Oregon -4 (-110)
Jack has covered college and professional sports for various Arizona media outlets and has written for the AP, USA Today and Baseball America, among others. He staffed the 2015-17 World Series and has staffed four Super Bowls.