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The first weekend of the March Madness Tournament is over and it did not disappoint. Both a 15 and 16 seed won their first-round matchups in the same year for the first time in NCAA history.
Hopefully, the second weekend of the tournament is just as wild as the first. UCLA will face Gonzaga in what is expected to be an exciting game. You won’t want to miss watching this game or betting on it.
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The UCLA Bruins are back in the Big Dance and trying to make another deep tournament run in March. This year’s team has been unstoppable for the majority of the season and has looked dangerous through the first two rounds.
During the regular season, UCLA was fueled by two big win streaks. After starting the season 3-2, the Bruins then rattled off 14 straight wins to move to 17-2 on the year. During that stretch, they beat tournament teams like Maryland, Kentucky, USC, and Arizona State.
UCLA immediately lost consecutive games after that. But then won 12 straight until their Pac-12 Championship loss to Arizona.
Two double-digit win streaks helped the Bruins finish with a regular season of 29-5. They also took home the regular season Pac-12 title after an 18-2 conference record.
The Bruins are led by two veterans, experienced players in Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Tyger Campbell. Both players were a part of the 2021 UCLA team that marched from the First Four to the Final Four.
This season, Jaquez averages 17.5 points and 8.1 rebounds, while Campbell averages 13.4 points and 4.9 assists.
UCLA, though, will be without their best defender in Jaylen Clark. Clark averaged 13 points, 6 rebounds, and 2.6 steals per game. His loss not only hurts the offensive but defensively, he will be missed in this tournament.
The Bruins have the scorers to compete with anyone in the country. But they have defensive talent that almost no one can match.
UCLA entered the NCAA Tournament allowing just 60.2 points per game. They rank top 100 in both steals (8.4) and blocks (3.8) per game and force an insanely high 15.7 turnovers per game.
The Bruins gets after their opponents and force a ton of bad shots. They rank top 50 in opponent’s field goals made and defensive field goal percentage.
When they held opponents to less than 61 points this year, they were 18-1.
Earning a second seed in the NCAA Tournament, the Bruins had favorable matchups to get to the Sweet 16.
UCLA rolled 15 seed UNC Asheville in its first-round matchup, 86-53. Jaquez and freshman Amari Bailey finished with 17 points apiece, and Campbell added seven points and 10 assists.
In the Round of 32, things got more difficult for the Bruins, but their defense prevailed. They beat 7 seed Northwestern 68-63 by holding them to 37.3% from the field and 27.3% from three. UCLA only forced eight turnovers, but Jaquez came up big with 24 points.
Gonzaga might have come into the NCAA Tournament as a “sleeper” due to the Bulldogs getting a 3 seed. But this team is anything but a sleeper.
They finished with a regular season title share with Saint Mary’s and won the WCC conference tournament after an impressive 28-5 record. They also went 6-3 in Quad 1 results.
One of their biggest wins of the season came against top-seeded Alabama. Both teams love to score, but the Bulldogs came out with the 100-90 victory. They also beat Michigan State, Kentucky, Xavier, and Saint Mary’s this season.
Gonzaga is led by senior Drew Timme. Timme has been big for Gonzaga over the years, but statistically speaking, he’s having the best season of his career. He’s averaging 20.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, both career highs.
The Bulldogs are an older team with Timme at the helm, which gives them tournament experience. Gonzaga’s top five scorers are all upperclassmen, including their best guard Julian Strawther.
Strawther was a bench player for Gonzaga in 2020 and has transformed into a college star. He averages 15.5 points with 6.1 rebounds per game.
The Bulldogs are led by two 15-plus scorers in Timme and Strawther. That has propelled Gonzaga to finish the season with the number-one scoring offense in the nation.
They ended the year with 87.2 points per game on a spectacular 52.9% from the field, both best in the country. Gonzaga also successfully shot the three ball at a high rate, converting 38.9% from behind the arch – eighth nationally.
Gonzaga’s offense is the best in the country, but their defense is suspect at times. The Bulldogs rank outside the top 200 in defensive field goal percentage, and three-point field percentage. They also allowed 72.8 points per game this season.
Despite that, their offense is electric and they usually come out victorious in shootouts.
3 seeded Gonzaga faced off against 14-seeded Grand Canyon in the first round. Although the game was close at halftime, the Bulldogs pulled away in the second half.
Gonzaga won 82-70 with Strawther and Timme combining for 49 points. The Bulldogs continued their shooting success by hitting 53.6% of their shots, including 50% from behind the arch.
In the Round of 32, Gonzaga faced 6-seeded TCU. Despite trailing at the half and shooting less than 45% from the field, the Bulldogs found a way to win 84-81. Timme was too much for the Horned Frogs after finishing with 28 points and eight rebounds.
#2 UCLA will face off against #3 Gonzaga. The last time these teams faced off in the tournament was in the 2021 Final Four. The Zags won 93-90 on a half-court buzzer-beater from Jalen Suggs.
Now, these teams will face in the Sweet 16. UCLA enters the game as a 1.5 favorite over Gonzaga and the over/under is set at 145.5.
This matchup is truly UCLA’s defense vs Gonzaga’s offense. Who will come out on top?
UCLA holds opponents to 40.4% from the field on 21.7 makes per game, both top 20 in the nation. Gonzaga makes 52.9% of its field goal attempts and averages 32.5 makes per game, both first in the country.
This season, the Bruins have allowed 75-plus points in three games. All three games were UCLA losses. As for Gonzaga, they have scored 75-plus points in 28 games this season. They are 28-0 when they reach that mark and 2-5 when they don’t.
It appears the magic number in this game is 75 points. If Gonzaga can get that, they have a good shot to win. If they don’t, UCLA will likely win..
The Bulldogs' offense can score, but their defense gets sloppy at times. I trust UCLA’s offense more than Gonzaga’s defense, especially when the Bruins have experienced tournament players in Jaquez and Campbell.
UCLA will cover the spread and the over will hit.
I am a huge sports fan; locally, many know me as the guy who does the PA for our high school football team on Friday nights. Having grown up in Michigan, I am a sports fan of all the Detroit teams, and at the college level, I love Michigan State sports.More info on Caleb Tallman
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