What a season it’s been for college basketball. And March Madness is the exclamation point at the end of the NCAA season’s long and winding sentence. We’re finally down to the Sweet Sixteen, with the nation’s top college teams vying for a slot in the elusive Elite Eight and Final Four.
Among those teams? The University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Bruins.
They’ve got a tough game ahead. UCLA finds itself against Gonzaga. Despite never winning the Championship, Gonzaga almost always manages to earn a high seed. The bulldogs are always a stalwart threat, and the UCLA Bruins meet them in a contentious Sweet Sixteen game this week. Will UCLA pull out the win and advance to the Elite Eight? Let’s take a look at the team’s chances.
The UCLA Bruins are narrow favorites to win this match-up. It’s expected to be a close bout, which makes sense in a 2-seed vs. 3-seed game.
The odds at DraftKings are:
At FanDuel, the odds are slightly different:
FanDuel gives you a slightly better payout on a UCLA moneyline bet. A $130 bet would win you $100 if successful, while you’d have to bet $135 for the same payout at DraftKings.
The point spread has some key differences. At DraftKings, UCLA has to win by more than two points at odds of -110 (a $110 bet pays $100 plus your original stake). At FanDuel, UCLA has to win by the same amount for the bet to hit, but it requires only $105 for that same payout.
The primary difference? If UCLA wins by exactly two points, your bet at DraftKings would push. It would lose at FanDuel.
Turns out Gonzaga won’t be the first team of Bulldogs UCLA meets in this year’s March Madness tournament. The Bruins played the UNC Asheville Bulldogs, a 15-seed, in the round of 64. IT wasn’t close.
UCLA’s roster spread the love round. Amari Bailey and Jaime Jaquez Jr. scored 17 points apiece. David Singleton scored 22, with three assists and two rebounds. Mac Etienne and Kenneth Nwuba scored ten each.
With a balanced offense taking to the court and a mismatch in seeding, UCLA cruised to an easy victory by a whopping 33 points, 86 to 53.
After the Bruins sent the Bulldogs barking up the wrong tree, they exchanged canines for felines. Round two brought the Bruins into a face-off with the Big Ten’s Northwestern Wildcats.
By all counts, this contest was much closer than UCLA’s previous game. Northwestern put up a fight. Jaquez Jr. managed an impressive 24 points, eight rebounds, and four assists. Amari Bailey scored 14 points, four rebounds, and six assists. Tyger Campbell padded the score with a cool 12 points, plus three rebounds and seven assists.
In the end, the Wildcats couldn’t keep the Bruins at bay. UCLA took down Northwestern 68-63, knocking one of three remaining Big Ten schools out of contention (Indiana would lose in the same round, while Michigan State went on to be the sole remaining Big Ten representative).
Bulldogs, check. Wildcats, check. Now, the Bruins play another set of Bulldogs, though this squad has proven much more formidable.
Gonzaga chances its first March Madness championship after many years of just missing out. The team’s fire was apparent from the get-go. Gonzaga put a cavernous scoring gap between the Bulldogs and Grand Canyon University. The Antelopes couldn’t make the leap; Gonzaga won the game handily, 82-70.
The 6-seed TCU Horned Frogs came next in the round of 32. Gonzaga and TCU duked it out in a nailbiter, with Forward Drew Timme scoring 28 points. Rasir Bolton followed with 17, while the rest of the roster filled in the blanks. The Bulldogs squeaked out a victory, 84-81.
They absolutely can. But will they? Sportsbooks expect a close match-up here, and it’s a reasonable approach. I take UCLA with an ever-so-slight edge in this game.
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