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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, February 4, 2015 at 7:00 PM

It was almost exactly a month ago when the UCLA Bruins reached the low point of their season. They were eviscerated 71-39 on the road at Utah…seemingly confirming to the nation that Steve Alford’s group had no chance to compete in the Pac 12 and earn a trip to the Big Dance. They were also the most overrated team in the country in market terms during the prior few weeks.

The very next game was at home against Stanford. The Bruins saved their season with an 86-81 overtime victory that launched what has been a 5-2 run straight up and ATS. They’re still only 5-4 in the Pac 12 standings…but there’s time to keep climbing the ladder. They are tied for fourth in the conference at the moment…but they have victories over third place Stanford and second place Utah (in a huge revenge result recently).

The bad news…this game is on the ROAD…and UCLA has been awful on the road in league play.

UCLA (+4.5) lost at Colorado 62-56

UCLA (+11.5) lost at Utah 71-39

UCLA (-5) won at USC 83-66 (barely a road game in home city)

UCLA (-1.5) lost at Oregon State 66-55

UCLA (+2.5) lost at Oregon 82-64

The trip to Oregon was a pair of double digit misses even though that was after UCLA saved their season! Beating USC means nothing because USC is a Pac 12 doormat and no travel was involved.

That’s the backdrop to Thursday’s meeting. UCLA either makes a real statement about what’s ahead down the stretch…or they confirm that they’ll be hosting a late night NIT first rounder on ESPN when March comes around. Let’s see what JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats have to say about Thursday’s matchup…

 

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency

UCLA: 108.0 per 100 possessions (#61 in the nation)

Stanford: 115.5 per 100 possessions (#11 in the nation)

UCLA’s had big troubles on offense, which you could probably deduce from the 39 points they scored in Utah. The coach’s son isn’t a trustworthy force even though he’s allowed to shoot all the time. That just causes resentment with the other players. If the Bruins are going to matter, they’ll show that by playing better offense Thursday at Stanford. If they struggle to score, write them off! (Note that college efficiency stats for all board teams are posted for free by Ken Pomeroy at his website).

 

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency

UCLA: 96.9 per 100 possessions (#80 in the nation)

Stanford: 99.3 per 100 possessions (#127 in the nation)

UCLA has been disappointing on offense, but even worse on defense! And, this is where Stanford shows why they may not be worth paying attention to in March (other than as a fade). Stanford did have a big road win at Texas…but that’s against a team that has no shooters. If you can shoot, you can beat Stanford. This is why “UCLA’s offense vs. Stanford’s defense” is such a litmus test for the Bruins. If they can’t score here…they’re NIT bound. You also get a sense of why the Pac 12 is mostly a two-team battle. Only Arizona and Utah produce quality and consistency.

 

Pace Ranking

UCLA: #44

Stanford: #203

UCLA was able to push Stanford out of its comfort zone at home in the first meeting. The host usually controls tempo whenever there’s a clash of styles. Now, it’s Stanford that will be slowing down UCLA to exploit a soft inside defense. This could look a lot like Wisconsin/Indiana the other night when we had somewhat similar dynamics stylistically (though few major teams are as bad defensively as Indiana this season).

 

Against the Spread

UCLA: 9-13 (8-13 to the Under)

Stanford: 11-9-1 (13-8-1 to the Over)

UCLA is 5-2 ATS their last seven, which means they were 4-11 ATS in their first 15 games. We included the Over/Unders this time to point out that the market hasn’t really noticed that Stanford is great on offense but non-tournament caliber on defense. There’s usually a perception about that program that it’s defense first in an attempt to win grinders. Not so much this season.

JIM HURLEY will be looking all over the busy Thursday schedule to find his clients the best Las Vegas betting options. UCLA/Stanford may be in the mix. But, NETWORK doesn’t force TV plays when they’re not warranted. You can purchase the final word for Thursday right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call the office at 1-888-777-4155 for complete details on packages that take you through MARCH MADNESS or the NBA Finals.

College hoops coverage continues in the NOTEBOOK for the forseeable future. We’ll have occasional NBA tastes on the quieter college days. Here’s what’s coming up…

Friday: College Early Look…Georgetown at Villanova in the Big East

Saturday: College Basketball…Kentucky at Florida in the SEC

Sunday: NBA Big Game Preview…Clippers/Thunder, Hawks/Grizz, or Spurs/Raptors

Monday: College Basketball Preview…either Duke/FSU or Iowa State/OU

Tuesday: College Basketball Preview…New Mexico at Colorado State in the M-West

Wednesday: College Basketball Preview…Villanova at Providence in the Big East

Thursday: College Basketball Preview…Stanford at Utah in the Big 12

The tournaments could be very challenging to handicap this season because so few teams will really be battle tested. And, there may be a lot of pretenders in the brackets because there won’t be enough good teams to go around! Keep reading handicapping tips here in the NOTEBOOK. And, link up with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK for BIG, JUICY WINNERS!

 

Be sure to follow:

Jim Hurley on twitter @vsm_hurley

Vegas-Sports-Masters on twitter @vsmasters

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