The UCLA Bruins will try to prove that they are worthy of a NCAA Tournament bid as they face Arizona State tonight in a game which the Bruins should win outright.

The UCLA Bruins have fallen quite a long ways from the times in which they were consistently a high seed in the NCAA Tournament. They weren't even in the field of 65 last season, and they are trying to make sure that they get back into the field now that it has expanded to 68 this season. The Arizona State Sun Devils shouldn't be providing anything more than a small bump in the road in college basketball betting action on Thursday night at Pauley Pavilion.

Frustration Setting In For Sun Devils

This hasn't exactly been the year that Head Coach Herb Sendek thought he was getting into at Arizona State. Sure, the Sun Devils were exactly preseason favorites to win the conference title or anything like that, but they figured on doing better than just 2-12 in conference, which is pretty much a guarantee to finish dead last in the conference in the regular season.

The good news is that the team did come up with a win over the Washington State Cougars this past weekend, but we know that this is a totally different task on the road, where ASU hasn't won a game in conference since knocking off the Oregon Ducks back on January 1.

Now, to make matters worse, the team's second and third leading scorers, Rihards Kuksiks and Ty Abbott are both dealing with injuries. They both missed the win over Wazzu, and both are listed as questionable for Thursday night's bout on the college basketball lines. These two are combining for 22.6 PPG this year, leaving Trent Lockett as the only healthy body averaging more than 7.2 PPG on the campaign.

Youthful Bruins Need to Bounce Back

UCLA BruinsThough UCLA had been winning games prior to a 76-72 OT loss to the Cal Golden Bears over the weekend, it just hasn't really felt like a tournament team. Wins against teams like Stanford, USC, Oregon State, and Oregon just haven't done it for us, and the only win in this stretch really of any great note was the victory against the St. John's Red Storm in Steve Lavin's return to Pauley Pavilion.

The Bruins know that this is their last breather game, as they are likely to be short favorites or dogs in each of their last three games of the year. This is one that just cannot be lost.

The big five scorers for UCLA just have to keep doing their thing. Malcolm Lee (13.6 PPG), Reeves Nelson (13.6 PPG), Tyler Honeycutt (12.7 PPG), Joshua Smith (10.5 PPG), and Lazeric Jones (10.2 PPG) are all capable of having huge games, and it will probably only take one or two to really step up to be able to knock off a team like this one, the worst in the conference.

Stacking Up the NCAA Basketball Odds

Arizona State has played at least somewhat better ball of late, but these injuries are why it is getting 11 1/2 points on the college basketball odds. It just isn't enough either.

This isn't going to be another situation like we had in the desert in which the Bruins had to just barely survive in OT with a 73-72 escape. They have to be tired of playing all of these close games in this series when they win and getting blown out when they lose. ASU is 4-1 ATS and 3-2 SU over the course of the last five in this series, but that all comes to an end on Thursday night.

My Pick: Run with the Bruins at your sportsbook tonight, and watch them take one step closer towards the dance on Thursday.