Free Picks: UCLA Bruins vs Michigan Wolverines

UCLA vs Michigan Elite 8
UCLA Bruins vs Michigan Wolverines, NCAA, Lucas Oil Stadium

The No. 11 UCLA Bruins (21-9, 13-7 Pac 12) are one of two double-digit seeded teams remaining in the Elite 8 stage of this year’s NCAA tournament. It’s been another crazy year of upsets, and now the Bruins face their biggest test yet in the No. 1 Michigan Wolverines (23-4, 15-4 Big Ten). UCLA might have surprised a bunch of bettors and fans in their journey through March, but Michigan hasn’t — the Wolverines were meant to be here, and now we’ll see if they can play like it.

Michigan grows stronger by the game, but UCLA has impressively managed to hang on

It should be obvious to most NCAA fans and bettors that unbeaten Gonzaga is the top team in this year’s tournament. But if you’re looking for the second best team, they might be right here in the form of the Michigan Wolverines.

Michigan has stormed its way to the Elite 8 — its fourth in the past eight March Madness events — thanks to some really impressive play through three rounds that provided very little doubt about why they’re a one-seed. On Sunday, the Wolverines turned in their best effort yet, soundly beating No. 4 Florida State by 18 points as 1.5-point favorites.

We’ll talk more about that in a moment, but first let’s look ahead to Tuesday, when the Wolverines will face UCLA as seven-point favorites (-118 at 888sport) on the latest NCAA basketball odds. Alternatively, Michigan is a stacked -333 money line favorite (888sport).

Look, we like the Wolverines. Their overall against the spread record (19-8) is excellent, and they’re 6-4 recently. UCLA isn’t bad against the spread (16-14), but certainly not as impressive. The value for Michigan is absolutely not there on the money line, so you’re going to need to look at the spread for the Wolverines — or roll the dice with the Bruins, perhaps.

And hey, that might not be the worst strategy. UCLA has found a way to make it here with four straight up wins despite being underdogs in three of those matchups (including a seven-point dog against No. 2 Alabama in the Sweet 16). UCLA would probably be watching Tuesday’s game on TV, though, if Alabama had been able to make its free throws. The Crimson Tide shot 11-of-25 from the line in an overtime loss, while the Bruins made 20-of-25 in that category.

Michigan is a better team offensively and defensively (as adjusted efficiency metrics tell us). They’re also more experienced, taller and more generous with the basketball (i.e. their assist-to-field-goal rate is seven percent higher). Oh, and the Wolverines just held Florida State, a top-20 offense in NCAA Division I, to 58 points on 40 percent shooting.

For all those reasons, our BetPicks prediction is to take the Wolverines at the seven-point spread (that can be teased, but you shouldn’t need to). And since Michigan’s lockdown defense is rolling right now, take the under on 136 points (-118 at 888sport) as well.

 

Stats

  • Michigan is 6-4 ATS in its past 10 games
  • The UNDER has cashed in seven of the Wolverines’ past 10 games
  • UCLA is 6-4 ATS in its past 10 games
  • The OVER has cashed in six of the Bruins’ past 10 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). You can follow Jordan on Twitter at @JordanHorrobin

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