The No. 11 UCLA Bruins (20-9, 13-7 Pac 12) have had a relatively easy run to the Sweet 16, all things considered. Yes, they had an extra round as a result of being a play-in team, but they’ve only faced an 11-seed, six-seed and 14-seed so far. That “cakewalk” is about to end as the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide (26-6, 19-2 SEC) roll into the picture for this round. Alabama has won six of its past seven games by double-digits, including both of its tournament games.
Free Picks: UCLA Bruins vs Alabama Crimson Tide
A clash of speeds and styles defines Alabama vs. UCLA
One thing you should know about Alabama is they like to play fast. One thing you should know about UCLA is they like to play slow. In their Sweet 16 matchup, the Crimson Tide and the Bruins will stretch to both ends of the pace-of-play spectrum, trying to impose their will on their opponent. That should be fun to watch!
Alabama is 12th in NCAA Division I in adjusted tempo, while UCLA is 337th. While the Crimson Tide are trying to push the pace with transition scoring, the Bruins will try to slow things down and squeeze the life out of most possessions. Whichever team can turn the game more toward their preferred style is in great position to win.
Before we get to see that in practice, we can look at the latest NCAA basketball odds to see what is supposed to happen: Alabama is the -286 money line favorite (Betway), taking Y points on the spread. The Crimson Tide have only been underdogs once since mid-January (a Feb. 24 road game against Arkansas) because, well, they’re very good. They’ve won 11 of 12, and they were favored in all of those games (keep in mind they’re more average against the spread — 5-5 in their past 10, 18-13-1 on the year).
UCLA is only slightly better against the spread lately (6-4) and slightly worse over the course of the full season (15-14). But the Bruins have covered three games in a row, twice winning straight up as underdogs. For as slow as they play, UCLA makes the most of its possessions. The Bruins are 12th in adjusted offensive efficiency, including 28th in NCAA Division I in three-point shooting (37.4%). UCLA doesn’t shoot a ton of threes though, and they probably won’t against Alabama, which is eighth in the nation in three-point percentage allowed (28.9%).
Ultimately, we don’t buy that UCLA can keep up with Alabama. Experience, height and most offensive/defensive metrics work in the Crimson Tide’s favor. And the way they’re playing, stacking up so many double-digit wins, our BetPicks prediction has them covering the 6.5-point spread, too (-111 at Betway).
- Alabama is 5-5 ATS in its past 10 games
- The UNDER has cashed in seven of the Crimson Tide’s past nine games
- UCLA is 6-4 ATS in its past 10 games
- The OVER has cashed in five of the Bruins’ past nine games
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Jordan Horrobin is a freelance sports journalist based in Toronto, Ontario, who enjoys sports-related research and telling engaging stories. His work can also be found at Sportsnet, Forbes and elsewhere. Though he abandoned most of his team-specific fandoms in the interest of unbiased analysis, Jordan roots hard for his fantasy football/hockey teams (and he's a complete homer for all things Ohio University).