Salt Lake City – January 11, 2024 – 9:00 PM ET

Two teams desperate to snap losing streaks collide in Salt Lake City on Thursday night as the Utah Utes host the UCLA Bruins. Both programs enter the matchup reeling, but could their desperation unlock an offensive outburst and tip the scales towards the over in a game set at 137 points? Let’s delve into the reasons why, despite both teams’ recent offensive woes, the over presents a potentially lucrative betting opportunity.

Utah’s Search for Offensive Rhythm:

The Utes (11-4, 2-2 Pac-12) boast a strong defensive identity, ranking 33rd in the nation in opponent 3-point defense. However, their recent back-to-back losses in Arizona exposed some cracks in their usually-sturdy armor. They surrendered a season-high 92 points to the Wildcats after allowing 70 points (their fewest since November) to Arizona State, raising concerns about their defensive consistency.

Coach Craig Smith identified 3-point defense as a major culprit, noting the 12 and 10 threes Utah conceded in those losses, respectively. This vulnerability could be music to the ears of UCLA’s struggling offense, especially considering the Bruins’ tendency to chuck up contested deep shots.

UCLA’s Potential Offensive Awakening:

While the Bruins (6-9, 1-3 Pac-12) own the dubious title of having one of the worst offensive showings in college basketball, it’s worth noting that their current woes haven’t materialized overnight. They’ve consistently struggled with shooting efficiency, ranking 327th in the nation in 3-point percentage (29.0%) and 320th in field goal percentage inside the arc (45.4%).

However, desperation breeds change, and coach Mick Cronin seems intent on jolting his team out of its offensive slumber. His postgame comments after the loss to Cal, specifically criticizing the lack of urgency and hustle, suggest a potential shift in mentality. If Cronin’s message resonates and translates into a more aggressive approach on offense, the Bruins could surprise with a more potent scoring effort than their recent performances indicate.

Factors favoring the Over

Offensive Awakening or Continued Slump?

UCLA’s anemic offense, averaging a measly 65.5 points per game, is the primary culprit pushing bettors towards the under. They haven’t scored over 60 points in their last three games, struggling with 3-point shooting (29.0%) and inside efficiency (45.4%). However, desperation can be a potent motivator. Coach Cronin’s emphasis on urgency and a potential shift in mentality could unlock their offensive potential. If Tyger Campbell regains his hot hand and their big men find their touch, the scoring dam could break, pushing the points toward the over.

On the other hand, Utah hasn’t exactly been lighting up the scoreboard, averaging 78.8 points per game. Their losses in Arizona revealed some defensive cracks, especially against the three-point line. If UCLA starts draining threes at a respectable clip, it could force Utah into an offensive shootout to keep pace, inflating the final score.

Defense: The Great Wall or Leaky Dam?

Utah’s usually stingy defense is their trump card. Ranked 33rd in the nation in opponent 3-point defense, they can shut down teams when locked in. This could prove problematic for UCLA, forcing them into contested shots and limiting their scoring opportunities. If their defensive intensity remains high, the under could be a safe bet.

However, Utah’s recent defensive lapses raise concerns. The 92 points they surrendered to Arizona expose a potential vulnerability. If UCLA capitalizes on their defensive breakdowns, driving to the basket and finding open threes, the Utah defense could crumble under pressure, paving the way for an over result.

Final Word

Despite both Utah and UCLA struggling offensively, the combination of their desperation, Utah’s recent defensive lapses, and potential offensive awakenings for both teams makes the over at 137 points a compelling option. If either team finds its offensive rhythm, the points could flow freely in Salt Lake City on Thursday night

PICK: Over 137 points Loss