College Game Day is a big to-do no matter who’s playing, and games at this latter part of February are typically make-or-breakers in conference seeding. It’s setups like this that make UCLA’s visit to No.7 Arizona on Saturday so interesting.
It’s a big game for the Bruins as they head into the final stretch of the regular season before the start of tournament play. They are considered a “bubble team” at this point and only three games behind the conference-leading Wildcats — last weekend’s victory over Oregon didn’t hurt either. However getting eked out by ASU 68-66 on Wednesday probably stings a bit. It’s going to be how they perform in Tucson that makes a lasting impression.
The Wildcats on the other hand have created a bit of cushion between themselves and the competition but are going to have to fight to maintain it down the stretch. While maintaining an 11-2 Pac-12 record they have been matched in conference play by Utah, with the last rung of regular season play taking place within the Pac-12. Following Saturday’s battle they leave the comfy confinds of McKale Center for two road games before ending the regular season at home against Stanford and Cal.
The key to both teams’ game is the same: Each will battle to set the pace early on and maintaining possession. This UCLA squad that is 12th overall on the rebound, tallying an average 39.8 a game off the glass. The ‘Cats themselves had a rebound-happy game on Thursday in their 87-57 smackdown on USC, with junior Kaleb Tarczewski leading the way notching nine off the glass to go with a 15-point effort.
This could go one of two ways: teams will go back and forth and score a ton of points, or both teams will play smothering defense and this game will have a very low score. Either way, should be fun to watch.
Tip-off for the tilt down in Tuscon is scheduled for 6pm Pacific time.
*Section Photo credit to Stephen Dunn, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Richard Mackson, USA Today Sports