When the Arizona Wildcats head west to face the UCLA Bruins, the game is always one to watch. Between the incredible history of both programs and the sheer talent that will be on display on Thursday night, the game figures to be one of the better Pac-12 matchups of the season. Unfortunately for both programs, neither are at the level they hoped to be at this point in the season and both are desperate for a conference victory.
The Wildcats enter with a solid record of 10-4 and won their first conference game against Arizona St. this past weekend. The Bruins have seen very little go right in 2011-2012; the team is 7-7 on the season and dropped their first two Pac-12 games last weekend. With the UA's hope to dance come March Madness and UCLA's hope to get out of the cellar, fans should expect an intense showdown between heated rivals this evening.
The biggest issue Arizona will have with their foes tonight will be their size. The Bruins biggest strength -- both literally and figuratively -- is Josh Smith, who clocks in in nearly seven feet tall and upwards of 300 pounds. Conditioning and foul trouble have been an issue this season, but when he has the correct mindset, Smith is capable of dominating the paint.
In addition to Smith, Travis and David Wear are both solid forwards who can cause matchup problems with their size and athleticism. Twin brothers, both stand 6'10 and are big enough to hold down the paint when Smith is on the bench. It will be interesting to see how the UA approaches these two; will Sean Miller try to match size-for-size with Angelo Chol and/or Kyryl Natyazhko, or will he use Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom to check the two power forwards?
On the wings, Lazeric Jones is playing very well and is the Bruins leading scorer. Sophomore guard Tyler Lamb has the ability to score baskets in a hurry and went off for 26 points in his last matchup with California. Guard play has been one of Arizona's biggest strengths this season and that will need to continue if they want to slow down Jones and Lamb.
This game could go either way and will likely be determined in the final minutes. Despite having to travel to Los Angeles, the Wildcats should feel right at home at the Honda Center, which is where the team made their Elite 8 run this past season.