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Sweet 16: UCLA Bruins vs Alabama Crimson Tide

A trip to the Elite Eight is on the line Sunday in a Sweet 16 matchup in the East region between the No. 11 UCLA Bruins (20-9) and the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide (26-6) at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:15 P.M. Eastern.

UCLA is on a nice run thus far in the tournament as they beat Michigan State 86-80 in the First Four matchup before beating No. 6 BYU (73-62) and No. 14 ACU (67-47) in the next two rounds. Now in the Sweet 16, they will face their toughest competition yet in the Crimson Tide.

Speaking of Alabama, they have been playing some excellent basketball as of late. After winning the SEC tournament, they have kept up their hot play, defeating No. 15 Iona (68-55) and No. 10 Maryland (96-77). They have now won seven in a row heading into Sunday.

Alabama is the favorite in this one. They are -270 to win while UCLA’s moneyline sits at +220. The spread features UCLA +6.5 while the over/under is 145.5.

By The Numbers

Offensively, Alabama has been one of the best in the country. The Crimson Tide rank 16th in scoring, averaging 79.7 points per game. UCLA ranks 101st, averaging 73.1 points.

UCLA holds the edge on the defensive side. They rank 94th in the country in scoring defense allowing opponents 67.9 points per game. Alabama ranks 133rd allowing 69.5 points.

UCLA Shoots For Massive Upset

UCLA is one of four Pac-12 teams remaining in the tournament, and they are out to prove once again that they are better than their ranking by taking down No. 2 Alabama.

To do so, they will need to continue to get strong play from guard Johnny Juzang. On the season, Juzang is averaging 15.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game. In their win over ACU, Juzang led the way with 17 points.

Aside from Juzang, the Bruins have four other players averaging double digits. Jaime Jaquez Jr. (12. Points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.1 steals), Jules Bernard (10.4 points, five rebounds), Tyger Campbell (10.1 points, 2.1 rebounds, 5.4 assists), and Cody Riley (10 points, 5.4 rebounds) have all played well this season.

One area of weakness is a lack of depth for UCLA. Aside from their starting lineup, no other player averages more than 4.6 points per game.

Alabama Quietly Proving They Are One Of The Best

While it is hard to say that a No. 2 seed is underappreciated, Alabama certainly does not get the same respect as other programs. Still, head coach Nate Oats has his team playing well and on the brink of an Elite Eight appearance.

On the season, guard Jaden Shackelford has led the team in scoring. He is averaging 14.3 points on 41.2% shooting while also adding 3.8 rebounds and two assists per game. In their win over Maryland, Shackelford had 21 points.

He doesn’t have to do it alone, though. Three others are averaging double digits, including Jahvon Quinerly (12.7 points, 2.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists), John Petty Jr. (12.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.3 steals), and Herb Jones (11.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.8 steals, 1.1 blocks).

Given that Maryland has a pretty solid defense made it all the more impressive that Alabama put up 96 points in their second round matchup. UCLA will have to step it up on defense to slow down the Crimson Tide

The Pick is In

Unfortunately, UCLA’s Cinderella story might be ending here. While they have looked impressive through their first three games, they have yet to face anyone near the caliber of the Crimson Tide.

Anything can happen in March madness, but the best bet is to take Alabama to win and cover in this one.

Betting Pick: Alabama Crimson Tide (-6.5).

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