Are the fun and games over for double-digit seeds and, if not, could the UCLA Bruins continue their run through March Madness with an upset win in the Sweet 16 round over the Alabama Crimson Tide?
UCLA Bruins vs. Alabama Crimson Tide
Sunday, March 28, 2021 – 7:15 PM ET at Hinkle Fieldhouse
One of four teams seeded 10th or lower remaining in the NCAA Tournament, UCLA will be seeking its fourth consecutive win after closing the regular season and Pac-12 Tournament with four successive losses. The 11th-seeded Bruins are also trying to become just the second First Four team to reach the Elite Eight since VCU in 2011. Alabama, the No. 2 in the East Region, split covers on the NCAAB lines in its first two wins of the tourney, and the Crimson Tide are seeking just the second Elite Eight appearance in program history.
‘Under’ a Winner in 5 of Bruins’ Last 6 NCAA Tourney Games
This matchup is one of the last on the Sweet 16 slate, with TBS providing prime-time coverage from historic Hinkle Fieldhouse. Like many outlets, BookMaker opened the Crimson Tide -6, that spread is now -6.5 with a little extra juice on the underdog Bruins. The scoreboard target has been hanging steady at 145.5.
Now in his second season at Westwood, Mick Cronin is trying to guide UCLA to its first Elite Eight appearance since 2008, that season marking the end of a 3-season run in which the Bruins reached the Final Four. The surprise in them getting this far by winning three in a row, starting with the First Four overtime win against Michigan State, is the Bruins fizzled at the end of the regular season with 3-straight losses plus a setback in their only Pac-12 tourney tilt.
Not only did UCLA win its first and second round games after beating the Spartans, the Bruins managed to cover the games against BYU and Abilene Christian with plenty of room to spare. They broke open a tight first half against the Cougars in Round 1 with a 17-4 spurt, which came in handy when the Bruins suffered a 4-minute scoring drought early in the second half. A 14-0 run in the first half against the Wildcats gave UCLA control of the Round 2 matchup. Johnny Juzang led the scoring in both contests, and the 6-6 sophomore is averaging 22.3 PPG in the three tournament games.
‘Bama Has Covered 5 of Last 7 Trips to Floor
Nate Oats has the Crimson Tide on an 8-game win streak heading into Sunday’s clash, sending their backers to the pay window in five of the last seven. Nice shooting on the offensive end and perimeter defense on the other end of the floor got them through the first two rounds. The Crimson Tide shot better than 50% in beating Iona and Maryland, hitting 21-of-49 (42.8%) from 3-point range, all while holding the Gaels and Terrapins to 30% (15-50) from beyond the arc.
Alabama was giving up 17 to Iona at the best betting sites, and led by just one with a little more than nine minutes to play. The Crimson Tide closed 21-8 for the 68-55 decision, overpowering the smaller 15th-seeded Gaels on the glass. Alabama actually had an easier time with 10th-seeded Maryland on Monday, with an Alex Reese 3-pointer midway through the first half breaking a 22-all tie and giving the Crimson Tide the lead for the rest of the game. Jaden Shackelford and John Petty Jr. were a combined 9-of-17 from 3-point range.
Bruins, Tide Meet at Big Dance for a 2nd Time
Alabama and UCLA have met five times previously with the Bruins winning three of the matchups. That history goes back to a January 1983 matchup at UCLA and runs up to a home-&-home series in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons. Home teams won both of the most recent contests, with the Crimson Tide and ‘under’ cashing each time, the totals in the low-140s.
Their only collision in the NCAA Tournament took place in 2006 when UCLA was the No. 2 in the Oakland Regional and Alabama was seeded 10th. The Bruins were favored, but had to fend off a determined Crimson Tide crew for a 62-59 victory. UCLA would go on to the Final Four and eventually fall to the Florida Gators in the NCAA Championship.
I started this tournament believing the SEC was a bit undervalued due to Kentucky stinking it up this season, and will stick with that line of thinking for this battle. The Crimson Tide are my NCAAB pick in a 77-68 final.
*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.