The No. 11 UCLA Bruins take on the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2021 NCAA Championship East Region Sweet 16, so I’ve prepared the best betting pick and odds for their showdown at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Sunday, March 28.
Alabama is a firm 6.5-point fave, according to William Hill Sportsbook, while UCLA is listed as a +230 moneyline underdog. These two schools haven’t met since 2014 when the Crimson Tide outlasted the Bruins 56-50 as four-point underdogs. Alabama is 1-3 straight up and 3-1 ATS in its previous four encounters with UCLA.
The Bruins dismantled Abilene Christian in the previous round
The UCLA Bruins started their journey with a First Four clash against the Michigan State Spartans and earned an 86-80 overtime victory. Since then, it’s been a clear path for the Bruins who outlasted BYU 73-62 in the first round and Abilene Christian 67-47 in the second round.
UCLA tortured the Wildcats defensively, allowing them to make only 29.8% of their field goals. Also, the Bruins executed well offensively, shooting 46.6% from the field while handing out 15 assists.
Sophomore guard Johnny Juzang (15.1 PPG, 41 RPG) has been a key player in this UCLA team over the last few weeks. He had 27 points in the first round and 17 in the second, while another sophomore G Jaime Jaquez dropped 27 points on the Spartans. Jaquez is averaging 12.2 points and 6.1 boards on the season.
UCLA ranks 12th in the country in offensive efficiency (116.1 points per 100 possessions) and 63rd in defensive efficiency (95.8). The Bruins are 60th in field goal percentage (46.3%) and 34th in 3-point percentage (37.4%), but they also rank 189th in opponent FG% (43.7%) and 213th in opponent 3P% (34.2%).
The Crimson Tide cruised past Iona and Maryland
The Alabama Crimson Tide met the Iona Gaels in the first round and failed to cover a massive 17-point spread in a 68-55 victory. They shot only 31.3% from beyond the arc and played a tight game for more than 30 minutes, but in the end, it was an easy victory for Nate Oats’ boys.
The Tide put on a strong performance in the second round, dismantling the Maryland Terrapins 96-77 as 6-point favorites. They posted a ridiculous 21 rebounds more than their opponents while going 16-for-33 from beyond the 3-point line.
Sophomore guard Jaden Shackelford leads the way for Bama, tallying 14.3 points and 3.8 rebounds per contest, while senior G John Petty adds 12.5 points and 5.2 boards a night. Alabama scores 112.9 points per 100 possessions (28th in the nation) on 43.5% shooting from the field (206th) and 35.5% from downtown (101st).
On the other side of the ball, the Tide surrender only 87.3 points per 100 possessions (3rd) on 40.8% shooting from the field (42nd) and 28.9% from beyond the arc (10th).
- 4-7 ATS in the last 11 March Madness outings as underdogs
- 5-2 ATS in the last seven games overall
- 8-1-1 ATS in the last ten games against the Pac-12
If they put on a solid offensive performance and continue with their defensive clinic, the Crimson Tide shouldn’t have any problems outlasting the Bruins. Bama scores 10.7 treys per game, enough for the fourth-most in the country, and their stout D allows the Tide to always look for easy baskets in transition.
The Bruins are a good offensive team with plenty of dangerous weapons in their arsenal. However, I don’t think they’ll have enough firepower to compete with Alabama for all 40 minutes, especially if the Crimson Tide start to knock down 3-pointers efficiently.
Pick: Take Alabama -6.5 at -110
The Tide play at the 12th-fastest pace in the nation, averaging 73.3 possessions per 40 minutes. On the other side, UCLA records only 64.1 (337th), so the Bruins will try their best to slow things down and force Bama into half-court basketball.
Therefore, I’m backing the under on the totals. Both teams will try to stay aggressive on the defensive end for most of the game. UCLA has to bring its best defense or the Bruins will exit in the same fashion as Maryland did in the previous round. The under is 6-3 in Bama’s last nine outings, and it is 3-2 in UCLA’s previous five games overall.
Pick: Go under 145.5 points at -110