The No. 11 UCLA Bruins (19-9, 13-7 Pac 12) ended their regular season on a three-game losing skid, then followed up with a one-and-done performance in the Pac 12 tournament. That forced them into the play-in round of March Madness, and they’ve since posted a pair of wins to push ahead into the round of 32. Awaiting them there is No. 14 Abilene Christian (24-4, 15-2 Southland), a ferocious team coming off their first tournament win in school history over in-state powerhouse Texas.
Free Picks: UCLA Bruins vs Abilene Christian Wildcats
Who can keep the glass slipper on, UCLA or Abilene Christian?
When we say neither UCLA nor Abilene Christian was supposed to make it this far, we mean that very literally. Consider their paths for a second:
UCLA lost its final four games entering March Madness, setting up a play-in game with fellow 11-seed Michigan State. Despite trailing by as many as 14 to the Spartans, UCLA stormed back for an overtime win. They followed that two days later with a stunning wire-to-wire victory over No. 6 BYU, and now here they are looking for a fourth Sweet 16 berth in the past seven tournaments.
Abilene Christian entered the tournament hot, as winners in 12 of their previous 13. But for a school that has only played at the NCAA Division I level for eight seasons, they were expected to be a doormat for Big 12 champion Texas to stomp on. Instead, the Wildcats survived and advanced with a pair of free throws inside the game’s final two seconds.
On Monday, these underdogs meet with a chance to do something special. Of course, they can’t both be underdogs in this matchup, and so UCLA is a five-point favorite (+100 at Betway) on the latest NCAA basketball odds. On the money line, the Bruins are pretty heavy -217 favorites (Betway).
Here’s one thing we want to make clear in this BetPicks prediction: betting against Abilene Christian on the spread is not a good idea right now. The Wildcats are a very healthy 18-6 ATS this season, which includes eight ATS wins in their past nine games (and five in a row).
But that doesn’t mean you should turn your attention away from UCLA. The money line value is suboptimal, but it’s a sign of respect from the oddsmakers to the Bruins because of how they’re playing right now.
Recall: they were down 40-26 to Michigan State with under three minutes to play in the first half. Since that moment, they bull-rushed the Spartans to win by six, and followed with an 11-point win over BYU.
What Abilene Christian needs to do to disrupt the Bruins is force a boatload of turnovers. The Wildcats do have the highest defensive turnover rate in the nation (27%), but the Bruins are a very respectable 41st in D-I in offensive turnover rate (16.2%). UCLA knows how to break presses and hold onto the ball.
So with that, we’ll stick with UCLA on the money line despite the limited value. If you want to boost your multiplier, consider parlaying the over (-111 at Betway), which has seen positive trends for both teams.
- Abilene Christian is 8-2 ATS in its past 10 games
- The OVER has cashed in seven of the Wildcats’ past 10 games
- UCLA is 5-5 ATS in its past 10 games
- The OVER has cashed in five of the Bruins’ past eight 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).