A spot in the national title game is at stake as Cinderella No. 11 seed UCLA faces the undefeated top team in the nation, Gonzaga. Let’s see their NCAAB odds.
UCLA Bruins vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Saturday, April 3, 2021 – 8:34 PM ET at Lucas Oil Stadium
UCLA is one of college basketball’s blue bloods, with more NCAA championships than any other program, thanks to a period of dominance that spanned much of the 1960s and 1970s. The Bruins are now in the unfamiliar role of tournament Cinderella after upsetting their way back into the Final Four.
The Bruins, a No. 11 seed this year, became just the second team to go from the First Four to the Final Four. The Bruins had a late comeback to force overtime against Michigan State in its play-in game, then beat BYU and Abilene Christian by an average of 15.5 points to make the Sweet 16. Then they became giant killers, knocking off the No. 2 seed Alabama in overtime, then upsetting No. 1 Michigan to make the Final Four.
That earned UCLA a trip to the national semifinal and a game against the biggest of tournament giants. Gonzaga is a No. 1 seed, the wire-to-wire No. 1 in the nation and looking to become the first team in 45 years to complete an undefeated season.
The Zags have not looked mortal in their four tournament games, beating Norfolk State, Oklahoma, Creighton, and USC by an average score of 88-64. While basketball fans may love David and Goliath matchups, betting money isn’t as fond of the prospect of an upset. Gonzaga opened as the largest favorite in Final Four history.
Many Ways to Win
UCLA didn’t shoot well against Michigan in the Elite Eight. They didn’t get to the free throw line very often and didn’t rebound well. So how did they get past the No. 1 seed? By using what has become their calling card throughout the tournament run—defense. The Bruins play the No. 330 tempo in the nation and slowed things down against the Wolverines. They also held Michigan to its lowest point total of the season.
Johnny Juzang was the hero of the win, scoring more than half of UCLA’s points, finishing with 28. In the second half, Juzang went down hard after trying to jump for a rebound, reaggravating a sore ankle that he’s reportedly injured three times this month. He was able to stay in the game and score 10 more points. He’ll likely spend the week getting treatment, and it’s hard to imagine anything short of a break keeping him out of the Final Four. He’ll need to be in top form for UCLA to have a chance.
Even with a healthy Juzang, there’s little evidence that UCLA will have a chance against the juggernaut that Gonzaga has become as the finish line gets closer.
It’s tough to find a weakness on a Zags team that is No. 1 in the nation in offensive efficiency, and No. 3 in defensive efficiency. Gonzaga is loaded with stars who were near the top of their game in the Elite Eight win over USC. Drew Timme scored 23 points with five rebounds. Jalen Suggs just missed a triple double with 18 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists. Corey Kispert added 18.
Gonzaga had a bit of trouble against the USC zone, shooting 50 percent for the game, about five percentage points below its season average. Still, the Bulldogs scored the game’s first seven points, led 25-8, and increased the lead to 21 before halftime.
It seems crazy that a game between two of the four teams still in the running for the national title has a spread of more than a dozen points. It also doesn’t seem like enough for Gonzaga. The Zags have won 29 of their 30 games this year by double digits. They lead the country in scoring and shooting.
UCLA has had an amazing run, but with their top scoring option doing it on a balky ankle, it might be too much to ask the Bruins for one more miracle—and what would be their biggest one yet.
For our NCAAB picks, we are going with the big favorite here.
*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.