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Best Sweet 16 Bets for Gonzaga vs UCLA on March 23: Odds, Picks and Predictions

Gonzaga vs. UCLA Odds, Spread, Moneyline, Over/Under – Sweet 16 Betting Lines 3/23 Moneyline: Gonzaga (+115), UCLA (-135)
Spread: Gonzaga +2.5, UCLA -2.5
Total: Over/Under 145.5 points
Gonzaga vs UCLA Prediction and Pick Gonzaga’s 84-81 win over TCU on Sunday night gave head coach Mark Few and his Bulldogs their ninth consecutive trip to the Sweet 16. Meanwhile, UCLA’s 68-63 victory over Northwestern put the Bruins into the Sweet 16 for a third straight year. The last time these two powerhouses met in the NCAA tournament was just two years ago in the 2021 Final Four. The matchup was a thriller that ended with Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs hitting a half-court buzzer-beater to eliminate the Bruins 93-90 in overtime.

When the two teams meet again on Thursday night, it will be a battle of the No. 1 offense against one of the best defenses in college basketball. Gonzaga’s 86.3 points-per-game average is the highest of any team in college basketball this season, while UCLA’s 60.2 points allowed per game is the fifth-lowest total given up by any team.

While UCLA ranks just inside the top 100 in points per game at 98th in the nation, the Bruins are no slouches offensively. Their 74.1 points per game have lit up the scoreboards, and they have reached 80 points 11 times this season. As for Gonzaga, the Bulldogs have gone to 80-plus points territory in almost every other game this season. They have done it 23 times, but only once against a top-20 defense from outside of their own conference. That was a game against Purdue back in November, and the Bulldogs struggled. Against the Boilermakers, Gonzaga scored 28 first-half points, finished with 66 total points, and lost by 18.

UCLA senior forward Jamie Jaquez Jr. and senior guard Tyger Campbell are a 1-2 punch that can each score 20-plus points on any given night. The Bruins offense is a rather well-balanced attack, as freshman guard Amari Bailey and senior guard David Singleton can also contribute scoring.

The Bruins have only faced one top-20 defense this season. That was against Northwestern on Saturday, and UCLA handled the Wildcats’ defense well enough to score 68 points. Coming off that game, the Bruins draw one of the easiest defenses they have faced in a matchup with Gonzaga.

Gonzaga is up against a top-five defense in UCLA, but this Bulldogs team is elite offensively. While Purdue had Gonzaga’s number back in November, the Bulldogs’ offense tore up conference rival St. Mary’s in all three of their games against the Gaels this season, and St. Mary’s actually ranks slightly ahead of UCLA defensively with the nation’s fourth-fewest points allowed per game.

Gonzaga senior Drew Timme is so skilled offensively, junior guard Julian Stawther has exponential range, and Anton Watson and Rasir Bolton bring senior experience on both sides of the floor. The mid-140s is too low a total for a Gonzaga game. This game will get into the 80s. Give me the over in this one.

The Pick: Over 145.5 (-110)

This Thursday night matchup between the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds is one of the best games this year’s Sweet 16 has to offer. My only major concern in this matchup is Gonzaga’s defense. While the Bulldogs’ offense is the best in college basketball, their defense is among the worst -– ranking 264th in the nation. Gonzaga has five losses this season, and while some of their non-conference losses are excusable, their conference losses to LMU and St. Mary’s resulted from poor defense. Gonzaga allowed both teams to go on late scoring runs that eventually decided those games.

UCLA also has five losses this season. The root cause of those defeats was the opposite of Gonzaga’s problem. In the Bruins’ case, a lack of offense was the culprit. Scoring stalls caused UCLA to fall behind and lose some games, such as the Bruins’ two losses to Arizona, which held UCLA to 52 and 59 points.

UCLA should not have any problem scoring in this one. Gonzaga’s defense is weak enough that the Bruins won’t have to worry about offensive stalls on Thursday night. On the other hand, Gonzaga will be tested by this UCLA defense, and if the Bulldogs struggle like they did against Purdue earlier in the season, they could be in for a long night.

I think this game will come down to the wire. Both are elite teams, but UCLA and its defense will prevail because the Bruins will be able to make key stops at the end of the game.

The Pick: UCLA ML (-135)

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