NCAA Basketball: UCLA/Gonzaga Preview, Odds and Prediction - 04/03/2021

by Big Al Staff

NCAAB Saturday CBS Preview: UCLA versus Gonzaga.

UCLA plays Gonzaga in the second Final Four game on CBS with a tip-off time of 8:34 PM ET.

The Bruins advanced to the Final Four with their 51-49 upset victory against Michigan as a 6.5-point underdog on Tuesday. Johnny Juzang put his team on his shoulders with 28 points. The sophomore leads the teams with a 15.5 points-per-game scoring average.

UCLA joined VCU as the only other team in tournament history to advance to the Final Four after playing in one of the First Four games. They won their play-in game, 86-80 in overtime, against Michigan State before defeating BYU and Abilene Christian to reach the Sweet 16. The Bruins needed overtime to advance to the Elite 8 in their 88-78 win against Alabama.

The Bruins rank 15th in the kenpom rankings with a 22-9 record. They are 13th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency using the kenpom metrics. They make 36.9% of their 3-pointers, ranking 44th nationally. The Bruins are 45th in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency at kenpom. They limit their opponents to rebounding 25.2% of their missed shots, ranking 70th nationally. UCLA has an opponent’s effective field goal percentage of 49.9%, which is the 166th worst mark in the nation.

The core group of players is not the same from which Mick Cronin started the season. Chris Smith suffered a season-ending torn ACL in late December. The 6’9 senior was scoring 12.6 points-per-game while adding 6.4 rebounds-per-game. Jalen Hill is not with the team in the Indianapolis bubble for reasons listed as personal. The 6’10 junior was averaging 6.1 points-per-game and 5.5 rebounds-per-game. Cronin still has plenty of talent available to him on his roster, as evidenced by their four wins in the tournament. The Bruins returned all five starters plus most of his bench players from the team that won eleven of their last fourteen games last season. Juzang joined the team from Kentucky in the offseason.

Gonzaga advanced to the Final Four with their 85-66 win against USC as a 12-point favorite on Tuesday. Drew Timme paved the way with 23 points. The sophomore scores 19.2 points-per-game and averages 7.2 rebounds-per-game. Jalen Suggs added 18 points, ten rebounds, and eight assists. The freshman is scoring 14.0 points-per-game and averaging 5.5 rebounds-per-game and 4.5 assists-per-game. Corey Kispert contributed 18 points and eight rebounds. The senior averages 18.9 points-per-game and 5.0 rebounds-per-game.

The Bulldogs are the last remaining undefeated team in the nation with a 29-0 record to accompany their number one ranking and top-rating at kenpom. They have rattled off 34 straight victories going back to last season, and they have won 27 in a row by double-digits. Gonzaga played a rigorous non-conference schedule that included powerhouses in Kansas, West Virginia, Virginia, and Iowa. The Bulldogs defeated Norfolk State, Oklahoma, Creighton, and then the Trojans in the NCAA Tournament.

Gonzaga has the country's top adjusted offensive efficiency number according to metrics at kenpom. Their effective field goal percentage of 61.0% is tops nationally. The Zags are fifth nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency at kenpom. They limit their opponents to rebound 23.0% of their missed shots, 18th best in the nation. If there is a crack in the armor, it might start with their half-court defense. Their opponents have an effective field goal percentage of 47.0%, which is only 41st nationally.

Mark Few returned three players from his seven-man rotation that finished 31-2 last season and looked poised to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament as a number one seed. This group may be Few’s most talented roster in his 22 seasons as the Gonzaga head coach.

Lucas Oil Stadium is the site. BetAnySports lists Gonzaga as a 14-point favorite with the total set at 145.5.

Computer prediction:  Gonzaga 80 UCLA 64

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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