After barely beating the Michigan State Spartans in a play-in game in last year’s NCAA Tournament, the UCLA Bruins went on a magical run and ended up in the Final Four. They’re hoping to replicate that run again this season and end up at the Final Four in New Orleans, Louisiana. The #4-seeded Bruins will start their journey on Thursday, as they’ll play the #13 Akron Zips in Portland, Oregon. We’re sure that we’ll see plenty of UCLA fans in Portland, as that isn’t a far jaunt from Los Angeles. Check out March Madness Odds, analysis, and a free prediction for UCLA Bruins versus Akron Zips.
Men’s College Basketball March Madness Betting: #4 UCLA vs #13 Akron Preview
The main core of last year’s squad returned this season, as Johnny Juzang, Tyger Campbell, and Jaime Jacquez will lead the Bruins into battle against the Zips. While Juzang has battled injuries throughout the season, he appears to be healthy heading into their first round matchup. After losing the Pac 12 championship game to the Arizona Wildcats, the Bruins are looking to get back on the winning track.
UCLA has won five of its last six, and eight of its last 10. Even though Juzang is regarded as UCLA’s best player, Jacquez has stepped things up while Juzang has recovered from his injuries. Jacquez has scored over 20 points in three of UCLA’s last four games.
Akron has a defense that relies on creating turnovers. They’ll struggle to get those turnovers against an experienced UCLA backcourt. Even though UCLA doesn’t mind running, they’ll try to control the tempo in this one. According to the KenPom rankings, the Bruins have the 33rd ranked scoring offense, and the 36th ranked scoring defense. Balanced teams always do well in the NCAA Tournament, so that bodes well for UCLA.
The former University of Illinois head coach, John Groce, gets back to the NCAA Tournament. While Akron didn’t win the regular-season title, they got hot at the end of the season and won the MAC Tournament. They ended the season with eight straight wins, and have a ton of momentum heading into Thursday night’s game.
Akron takes care of the basketball, as they only average 11 turnovers per game. They like to slow the pace on offense, and they are just an average defensive squad. This is their first tournament appearance since 2013, so they want to start things off with a bang.
UCLA comes into this one as a heavy favorite. The oddsmakers have spoken, and they have made the Bruins a 13.5-point favorite. In looking at some of the betting numbers, both squads have some betting stats that could make you think hard on who you should choose. As an underdog, Akron is 9-2 against the spread in its last 11 games. UCLA is 16-11-1 against the spread in its last 28 games as a favorite.
While Akron is a nice story, being the #4 seed in the MAC Tournament and coming out with a championship, they just don’t have enough to beat the UCLA Bruins. UCLA is too athletic, and they have played a much tougher schedule. They have too much offensive firepower for the Zips to stop.
UCLA wins this one and covers the spread, as they win 75-60 and move on in the tournament.