UCLA basketball players celebrate their win over BYU after a first-round game in the NCAA college basketball tournament at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Saturday, March 20, 2021. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
- 11-seed UCLA is a 4.5-point favorite over 14-seed Abilene Christian in East Region Second Round Action on Monday (March 22nd)
- The Bruins upset BYU in the First Round, while the Wildcats shocked Texas
- See below for analysis, odds and a betting prediction
Better late than ever if you’re a UCLA Bruins fan. After failing to live up to expectations for most of the college basketball season, UCLA is exceeding expectations at the NCAA Tournament. First they surprised Michigan State in a First Four game, erasing a 14-point deficit before prevailing in overtime, and then on Saturday they upset BYU in the First Round, handing the Cougars an 11-point defeat.
Speaking of upsets, the Bruins Second Round opponent Abilene Christian is fresh a shocking victory over 3-seed Texas. The 14-seed Wildcats snuck past the Longhorns by a single point, and will clash with 11-seed UCLA on Monday (March 22nd).
Abilene Christian vs UCLA Odds
|Abilene Christian Wildcats||+4.5 (+100)||OFF||Over 134.0 (-110)|
|UCLA Bruins||-4.5 (-120)||OFF||Under 134.0 (-110)|
Odds as of March 21st.
The Bruins opened up as a 4.5-point favorite, in a game that features a total of 134. UCLA’s improbable run to the Second Round is especially surprising given its struggles down the stretch in Pac-12 play.
2021 NCAA Men’s Tournament Championship Odds Tracker
Bruins Are Ballin’ All of a Sudden
UCLA dropped each of its last four outings before its First Four game versus Michigan State, all against opponents who wound up making March Madness. Granted, they were an underdog in three of those four contests, but they were wildly inconsistent all season, and few expected them to be in this position.
BRUINS STILL DANCIN’
11-seed @UCLAMBB is on to the next round 🙌 pic.twitter.com/LQoLI5LI8z
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) March 21, 2021
Johnny Juzang led the offensive attack against BYU pouring in 27 points, while Jules Bernard added 16, and Jamie Jacquez Jr. splashed 13. Juzang joined an exclusive club along the way, becoming only the third Bruin in school history to record at least 20 points in his first two games at the NCAA Tournament.
Johnny Juzang is the 3rd player in UCLA history to score at least 20 points in each of his first 2 career NCAA Tournament games.
He joins Lew Alcindor and Reggie Miller. pic.twitter.com/cYP4Dtrcga
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 21, 2021
UCLA shot 48.3% from the field, and 8-of-19 from beyond the arc. They took immaculate care of the ball, committing just four turnovers, and could have won by an even larger margin if they hadn’t struggled at the free throw line. The Bruins knocked down only 56.3% of their free throws, a far cry from their 72% season average.
Knocking down free throws and protecting the ball will be imperative against Abilene Christian, who force turnovers at an absurd rate.
Wildcats Shock Texas
The Wildcats’ victory over the Longhorns was their first March Madness win ever, and it sends four teams seeded 13th or higher into the round of 32 for the first time in NCAA Tournament history.
14-seed Abilene Christian takes down 3-seed Texas. pic.twitter.com/ziP3fsneEI
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 21, 2021
Abilene Christian forced 23 Texas turnovers en route to victory, and got a pair of clutch free throws from Joe Pleasant to seal the win in the dying seconds. They shot just 29.9% from the field, and 3-of-18 from beyond the arc, but their suffocating defense and strong rebounding more than made up for their lousy shooting.
He did the horns down after taking Texas out of the tournament 😯 pic.twitter.com/HIgbeTWXwg
— ESPN (@espn) March 21, 2021
The Wildcats held the Longhorns to their lowest point total of the season, and won the rebounding battle 36-31, pulling down 18 offensive boards.
UCLA Continues To Roll
Abilene Christian will get all the press heading into this matchup, but its recipe for success simply isn’t repeatable. They’re not going to beat the Bruins by shooting sub 30% from the field, and it’s highly unlikely they’ll force another 20+ turnovers.
Despite the Wildcats’ exceptional defense, when the Longhorns did get shots off they were successful. Texas shot 45% from the field, and statistically they’re a worse offense than UCLA.
Johnny Juzang (27pts) had himself a night 👏⁰⁰@UCLAMBB | #MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/eiQXzf5KRW
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 21, 2021
The Bruins feature a handful of very strong shooters, and can get scorching hot from beyond the arc. Both Jacquez Jr. and Bernard shoot 40% from three, while Juzang has knocked down 53% of his field-goal attempts through two games. UCLA is peaking at just the right time and should advance comfortably to the Sweet Sixteen.
Pick: UCLA Bruins -4.5 (-120)
Chris began his career at Hockey Night in Canada over 15 years ago. He has since worked at TSN for over 12 years as a writer, line-up producer, field producer, newsroom supervisor for Sportscentre, and presently as a promotions producer.