The last of 16 games on Thursday, the first full day of the 2023 NCAA Tournament, will feature the 15th-seeding UNC Asheville Bulldogs (27-7) victors of the Big South, and the second-seeded UCLA Bruns (29-5).
We will now preview each of the two teams, and then we’ll give you our betting predictions for this Round of 64 contest. Keep reading for college basketball lines, analysis, and a free pick for UNC Asheville Bulldogs vs. UCLA.
2023 March Madness Round of 64 Game
No. 15 UNC Asheville Bulldogs vs. No. 2 UCLA Bruins Betting Preview
UNC Asheville of Sun Belt meets UCLA of SEC in NCAA Tourney First Round
ATS Odds: UCLA -17.5
Moneyline Odds: UNC Asheville +877 / UCLA -1666
Over/Under Odds: 134.5 -110
When: Thursday, March 16 at 9:40 pm ET
Where: Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, CA, USA
TV / Streaming: truTV
Bulldogs Look To Upset Bruins
Some may view this contest as a “get out” game, meaning in gambling parlance that they can erase or at least minimize their losses for the day with a strong opinion and subsequent result in these proceedings.
As is the case with many of these early round 2/15 matchups, one team, in this case, UCLA, has a decided advantage in talent, experience, and skill while the opponent, in this instance UNC-Asheville must rely on patience and playing a near-perfect game to secure an upset.
Look At the Teams: No. 15 UNC Asheville vs. No. 2 UCLA
The UCLA Bruins are coming into Thursday’s play having won 12 of its last 13 with a 61-59 defeat to Arizona in the Pac-12 finals, putting an end to a 12-game winning streak. However, the story for the Bruins is that they’ll be without their top defensive player (and conference Defensive POY), Jaylen Clark, who is gone for the year with an Achilles injury. In addition, freshman center Adem Bona is battling a shoulder injury that kept him from lining up against Arizona.
However, coach Mick Cronin stated earlier this week that he’s somewhat confident that his center, who started 31 of the first 32 games, could be available for the opening-round tussle.
The Bruins’ tournament history as of late has been pretty impressive as they went all the way from the play-in game in 2021 to the Final 4 and they got to the Sweet 16 a year ago. They’re led by Cronin, who took Cincinnati to nine straight March Madness appearances before leaving his hometown and venturing out West. Experience will not be an issue for the Bruins.
UNC-Asheville, on the other hand, had its best season in terms of wins in its 38-season Division I era. This is their fifth-time dancing, and they’ll look to survive and advance for the first time ever. One of the things we frequently see with these low-major teams is that they bring experience to the table and don’t have a preponderance of one-and-done players. This is true with the Bulldogs, as according to the KenPom metric; they have the 12th most D1 experience on their roster.
UNC-Asheville vs. UCLA Betting Trends
- UCLA’s ATS record is 19-14-1 this season.
- A total of 16 of UCLA’s 32 games with a set total have hit the over (50%).
- UCLA has a 5-3 record against the spread in games it was favored by 17.5 points or more this season.
- The 73.9 points per game the Bruins score are 5.3 more points than the Bulldogs give up (68.6).
- UCLA has a 14-6-1 record against the spread and a 19-2 record overall when putting up more than 68.6 points.
- UNC Asheville’s ATS record is 17-15-0 this year.
- UNC Asheville’s games have gone over the point total 16 out of 32 times (50%).
- UNC Asheville is winless against the spread (0-1) when playing as at least a 17.5-point underdog.
- The Bulldogs average 14.7 more points per game (75) than the Bruins give up to opponents (60.3).
- UNC Asheville has put together a 16-8 ATS record and a 22-4 overall record in games it scores more than 60.3 points.
No. 15 UNC Asheville Bulldogs vs. No. 2 UCLA Bruins Final Betting Prediction | How We See The Game
KenPom has this one as a 76-58 UCLA victory which somewhat aligns with the markets who favor the Bruins by 17.5. UCLA’s strength is its defense and tenacity, as they rank second in all of America in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom.
Asheville’s best player is 6-11 center Drew Pember the conference Player of the Year, who came to the mountains of North Carolina via Tennessee two years ago. If Boma is unable to play, this could work in the favor of the Bulldogs in terms of keeping it relatively close.
However, the old adage of guards winning in March definitely applies to this Bruin team, as its floor general, Tyger Campbell, has played in 130 career games. This gives Cronin’s team a definite edge.
While we feel the absence of Clark could hamper the team from Westwood later in the tournament, it shouldn’t be a huge deal in this round. We expect the Bruins to be fired up from their loss to Aruzona and roll over the Bulldogs.
One other thing in favor of this pick is that Asheville has faced only one team within the KenPom top 50 this year, it was Arkansas, who was 20 at the time, and the Bulldogs got rolled 85-51. Take the Bruins, lay the points, go to the window.
March Madness Round of 64 Pick: Bruins: lay the points | Bet UNC-Asheville vs. UCLA Today
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