|-4 ORE (-109) @ pinnacle|
My 9* Situational Stunner is on Oregon at 9:00 ET.
It's the final week of the Pac 12's regular season and UCLA is trying to hang on and win the conference's regular-season title. UCLA is 17-6 overall with it's 13-4 Pac-12 record leaving the Bruins barely ahead of the 12-4 Oregon Ducks and the 13-5 USC Trojans. As fate would have it, UCLA plays at Oregon tonight and then will host the Trojans Saturday night at Pauley Pavilion. This storied UCLA program hasn't won a Pac 12 conference title since the 2012-13 season. The 17-5 Ducks have won EIGHT of their last nine games to close in on UCLA. This will be the first meeting between the Bruins and Ducks this season, although they have been scheduled to play on four previous dates, all postponed because of coronavirus concerns.
Mick Cronin made NINE consecutive NCAA Tourney appearances at Cincy, as his Bearcats posted a 235-78 (.751) record in that span. He moved to Westwood last season and his Bruins got better as the year progressed and were playing their best ball when the season was shut down. UCLA's 6-9 guard Chris Smith averaged 12.6 points and 6.4 rebounds in UCLA's first eight games but was lost for the season with a knee injury. More recently, the 6-10 Jalen Hill (6.1 & 5.5) has not played since Feb 6 (personal reasons). However, the Bruins still have FIVE players averaging between 9.4 and 14.6 PPG. PG Campbell (10.8 & 5.6 APG) misses Smith but is still surrounded by "big guards" like the 6-6 Zuzang (14.6 & 4.4), the 6-6 Jaquez (11.6 & 6.1) and the 6-6 Bernard (9.4 & 4,6). Without Hill, it's just the 6-9 Riley (10.3 & 5.3) up front.
Dana Altman spent 16 seasons at Creighton and took the school to seven NCAA tourneys in his last 12 years at the school. He came to Oregon for the 2010-11 season and won the CBI championship in his first season. He's now in his 11th season in Eugene having won 20-plus games in each of his first 10, averaging 25.9 wins per year. Oregon has played in SIX of the last eight NCAA tourneys and it would have been seven if last season's year was not cut short (Ducks were 24-7). The Ducks have won EIGHT of nine and have a chance to win the regular season title with two wins (close at Oregon St on Saturday). The 6-6 Eugene Omoruyi, who sat out last year as a transfer from Rutgers is averaging 17.0 & 5.4. The 6-6 Figueroa transferred from St John's and adds 11.6 & 6.6 and the 6-6 Eric Williams (10.7 & 6.3) transferred from Duquesne. That trio gives Oregon a strong frontcourt, even with 6-11 center N'Faly Dante (8.2 & 5.8) suffering a torn ACL in mid-December (out for the season). 6-8 guard Duarte (17.4 & 4.9) is now joined in the backcourt by PG Will Richardson, who is back from a left thumb injury suffered in the preseason. He's averaging 9.5 PPG in 10 games.
Both Cronin and Altman are proven winners but I'm siding with the homestanding Ducks. "It's just great to be in this position," Oregon's Altman said. "Through the two pauses (due to COVID-19 protocols earlier this year) and a couple bad losses at home, for them to be resilient and fight back like they have -- they didn't get down. They came back and did a tremendous job. So I want them to have fun; I want them to enjoy this week." I think Oregon will win here handily, especially since the Bruins have gone just 2-9 ATS (that's an 82% "go-against") since mid-January.