NCAA March Madness: UCLA Bruins vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs betting preview, odds and predictions
In a 2 vs. 3 matchup in the West region of the NCAA Tournament, the UCLA Bruins take on the Gonzaga Bulldogs with a spot in the Elite Eight on the line. All tournament long, VSiN will be providing you with March Madness betting odds, in-depth team analysis and expert college basketball picks. Make us your one-stop shop for all of your betting needs.
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How to watch UCLA vs. Gonzaga
When: Thursday, 9:45 p.m. ET
Where: Las Vegas, Nevada
Odds for UCLA vs. Gonzaga
Spread: UCLA -1.5
(Odds accurate as of Sunday, March 19th at 11:45 p.m. ET)
Real-time betting splits at DraftKings Sportsbook
West Region No. 2 Seed UCLA Bruins
UCLA has already been to a Final Four under Mick Cronin, but this is the best team the Bruins have had since hiring the former Cincinnati coach. This just might be the best defensive team in the entire nation. However, UCLA is also very good offensively, with Jaime Jaquez Jr. being one of the best players in all of college basketball. He’s the main cog for the Bruins’ offense, and his ability to make plays in the mid-post will be huge when games become more difficult to win. Also, keep an eye on star freshman Amari Bailey, who had a good game against Northwestern. He’ll need to continue to play well with Jaylen Clark out for the season with an Achilles injury. The Bruins didn't feel Clark's absence in wins over UNC Asheville and Northwestern, but the competition gets much stronger from here.
West Region No. 3 Seed Gonzaga Bulldogs
Drew Timme has probably been the best big man in college basketball in each of the last two years, and Gonzaga is lucky to have him as somebody it can rely on in the paint. Timme scores efficiently on his own, as he has absurd touch around the basket, but he also does great work creating for his teammates. That's why everything runs through him. The Bulldogs also have an excellent wing in junior Julian Strawther, who can really shoot and also has good size for a small forward. The question for the Zags is whether they’ll get enough out of their backcourt moving forward. That has been an inconsistent group for Gonzaga all season, but it looked great in the win over TCU last game. The Zags also need to be a lot better defensively moving forward.
UCLA vs. Gonzaga matchup analysis
In 2021, Jalen Suggs, who now plays for the Orlando Magic, banked in a shot from just about half court to give Gonzaga a Final Four win over UCLA at the buzzer. The Bruins will now be looking for revenge, and that's not something you can take lightly. There are quite a few players on this UCLA team that contributed to that Final Four run, with Tyger Campbell and Jaime Jaquez Jr. being two of them. Those two will surely want to go out and beat the Bulldogs team that ended their season, but it's a little hard to ignore how banged up UCLA is right now.
Not only did Mick Cronin's team lose Jaylen Clark — one of the team's best two-way players and the 2023 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year — right before March Madness, but David Singleton suffered a really bad ankle sprain in the win over Northwestern last round. It seems likely that Singleton will be out there for this one, but the Bruins need him to really be himself in order to win a game like this. Singleton is one of the leaders of this UCLA team, and he's another guy that played for the team that lost to Gonzaga in that Final Four game.
The Bruins play great basketball on both ends of the floor, as they are 21st in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency and second in adjusted defensive efficiency. However, we should note that the Bruins are down at 13th in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency since Clark went out. That's not a massive difference or anything, but this is not the same team defensively without him. And that small dip in performance could make the difference when playing a team that executes with Gonzaga's precision offensively.
The Bulldogs are first in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency this season, which isn't all that surprising considering they still run their offense through superstar Drew Timme. Timme was a monster in the win over TCU in the Round of 32, and he should have a big game against UCLA. He is the best low-post player in the nation and reads the floor unbelievably well for a big man. And Gonzaga has a bunch of reliable 3-point shooters surrounding him, with the team being ninth in the nation in 3P% this year. Timme will spot those guys and get them good looks as much as possible.
If the Zags can show up defensively in this one, it's going to be really hard for the Bruins to win. Gonzaga is just 83rd in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency this year, but teams tend to play better defense when the games matter more. And Mark Few knows this UCLA team well with this being the third meeting between the two in the last three years.
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