NCAA March Madness: UCLA Bruins vs. UNC Asheville Bulldogs betting preview, odds and predictions
In the 2 vs. 15 matchup in the West region of the 2023 NCAA tournament, the UCLA Bruins face the UNC Asheville Bulldogs with a spot in the Round of 32 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. UC Santa Barbara
When: Thursday, 10:05 p.m. ET
Where: Sacramento, California
Odds for UCLA vs. UC Santa Barbara
Spread: UCLA -18.5
(Odds accurate as of Sunday, March 12th at 11:00 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, which will be a nice thing to lean on in tournament play. 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 could have some big moments in March. He’ll need to step up with Jaylen Clark being out for the season with an Achilles injury. But Clark’s absence is a brutal blow for the Bruins defense, as he’s an elite defender with positional versatility.
West Region No. 15 Seed UNC Asheville Bulldogs
Bulldogs head coach Mike Morrell spent most of his career as an assistant under Shaka Smart, so he has been around a lot of winning teams in the past. Now, the coach has gotten a chance to shape his own program, and he has immediately turned the Bulldogs into an impressive bunch. This team started the year 9-6 before rattling off wins in 18 of its 19 games heading into March Madness. No higher seed will want to see Asheville either, as Drew Pember is a remarkable player for this Bulldogs team. At 6-foot-10, Pember is a tremendous scorer and defender. He should be a fun player to watch regardless of how long Asheville hangs around.
UCLA vs. UNC Asheville matchup analysis
It has always been said that it’s better to be lucky than good. Well, UNC Asheville is both, but the task at hand is a tough one stepping up in class against UCLA. The Bulldogs are the luckiest team in the country per Ken Pomeroy and also hold the top spot in Bart Torvik’s “F.U.N. (Fortune Unexplained by Numbers)” variation of a luck metric. To some degree, we can explain UNC Asheville’s good fortune.
They are 11-4 in games decided by six or fewer points and a lot of it has to do with being sixth in the nation in 3P% at 38.8% and 22nd in the nation in 3P% against at 30.5%. Making 3s while preventing the other team from doing so will gain you a lot of favor in games and that has been the case for the Bulldogs. It will take more than luck against UCLA, but a cover wouldn’t be the craziest outcome here.
UCLA just played three games in three days in the Pac-12 Tournament without Jaylen Clark and saw Adem Bona get hurt when his shoulder popped out. Bona is said to be able to return early in the NCAA Tournament, but the freshman’s services shouldn’t be needed here for UCLA to advance. Clark is out for the season after injuring his Achilles, which shouldn’t matter here, but could be a huge factor in a stacked West Region.
Clark’s absence does hurt. He was the defensive leader of a UCLA team that ranks 11th in TO% on defense at 23.6%. He was also a solid scorer and a guy who was able to get to the rim. His injury may be the only weakness for a Bruins bunch that went to the Final Four two years ago as an 11 seed that had to play in the First Four and then went to the Sweet 16 last year before losing to eventual runner-up North Carolina.
UNC Asheville is 18-1 over the last 19 games, but obviously hasn’t played a team on UCLA’s level. But, the Bulldogs are a good team at both ends of the floor and could make enough 3s to scare the Bruins in Sacramento.
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