UCLA’s Tyger Campbell (10), David Singleton (34) and Jake Kyman (13) celebrate following the team’s 86-80 win over Michigan State in a First Four game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament, early Friday, March 19, 2021, at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)
- Alabama will bring an eight-game winning streak into an East Region game against UCLA at 7:15 pm ET on Sunday, March 28
- No. 11 seed UCLA blew out No. 14 seed Abilene Christian to advance, its third tournament victory in five days
- Check out the odds, analysis, and betting predictions, below
Alabama (26-6) has won eight games in and row and 11 of 12 as it enters an East Region Sweet 16 game against UCLA at 7:15 pm Sunday, March 28th. The Crimson Tide made 16 three-pointers in a 96-77 victory over Maryland on Monday and put the game away the same, making four three-pointers in 14-0 run, 1:57 run early in the second half.
UCLA (20-9) entered the tournament on a four-game losing streak, a run that that cost it a rung or two on the seeding ladder and dropped it into the First Four. The Bruins went on an 18-0 run midway through the first half against Abilene Christian and never led by fewer than 10 thereafter.
UCLA vs Alabama Odds
|Team||Moneyline at DraftKings||Spread||Total|
|UCLA Bruins||+180||+5 (-109)||144 (Ov-108)|
|Alabama Crimson Tide||-220||-5 (-112)||144 (Un-113)|
Odds as of March 23.
Alabama set a school record for three-pointers in an NCAA Tournament game against Maryland and set a school record in three-pointers in a season with 341. The Tide will make their first Sweet 16 appearance since 2004 and is one victory short of a school-record 27 set in 2001-02.
UCLA is attempting to become the second team to go from the First Four to the Final Four. Virginia Commonwealth did it in 2011, the first year the NCAA field was expanded to 68 teams. The Bruins are one of four other First Four teams to make the Sweet 16, after La Salle (2013), Tennessee (2014), and Syracuse (2018).
Alabama Goes Deep
Crimson Tide coach Nate Oats has been a coach of the year in two of the last three seasons, in his final season at Buffalo in 2019 and his second at Alabama this season. He spreads the floor and gives his team permission to shoot from almost anywhere, at it works.
Not only does Alabama lead NCAA Division I in makes, it also leads in attempts (961). The Tide are shooting 35.5% from distance, and the volume generates a lot of high-scoring games. The Tide average 79.7 points per game and have made 10 or more three-pointers or more in a Division I-high 21 games this season.
John Petty Jr. leads the team with 74 three-pointers, followed by leading scorer Jaden Shackelford (62) and Jahvon Quinerly (49), and Joshua Primo (43). Shackelford, who had 21 points and five threes against Maryland, is averaging 14.4 points per game.
Quinerly, who comes off the bench, had 14 points and 11 assists against Maryland. Alabama also is deep. Eight players average at least 15 minutes per game and eight have made at least 20 three-pointers.
2021 NCAA Men’s Tournament Championship Odds Tracker
UCLA Valuing the Ball
UCLA has committed only 20 turnovers in its first three tournaments games, a big reason the Bruins remain in play.
Michigan State committed two turnovers and missed its final three field-goal attempts while failing to hold a five-point lead in the final two minutes of regulation on Thursday, and the Bruins also forced two turnovers in overtime in the 86-80 First Four victory.
UCLA sophomore point guard Tyger Campbell, who handles the ball on virtually every possession when he is on the floor, has 18 points, 13 assists, and three turnovers in 91 minutes in the first three games. He didn’t commit ta turnover in 30 minutes in the 73-62 victory over BYU.
Campbell entered the Abilene Christian game second in the Pac-12 and sixth among the Power Six players averaging 5.5 assists per game. He was third in the league and sixth in the Power Six with a 2.85:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
The Tide’s Improved Defense
Led by SEC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year Herb Jones, the Tide have made a marked improvement on the defensive end this season.
Alabama ranks second in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency, behind only Loyola Chicago, after finishing 114th in the category in 2020.
Jones, a 6’8 senior, does a little of everything. He averages 11.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.8 blocked shots per game. He was in early foul trouble and played only 17 minutes against Maryland.
Spreading the Wealth
Like Alabama, UCLA gets offense from several sources, having come to rely on a versatile perimeter group since forward Chris Smith suffered a season-ending knee injury while backup center Jalen Hill has missed the last 14 games for personal reasons.
Shooting guard Johnny Juzang, who averages 15.0 points per game this season, has become the go-to player on offense with help from wingman Jaime Jaquez Jr.
Juzang averaged 18.9 points in the final 10 regular-season games and has 69 points and nine three-pointers in the first three NCAA games. He has three turnovers in 107 minutes. Jaquez Jr. has 50 points, 19 rebounds, and zero turnovers in 115 minutes.
Jaquez’s three-point play after rebounding his own miss with 28 seconds remaining sent the Michigan State game into overtime, and Juzang scored the first two baskets of OT for a lead UCLA never lost.
Both teams are on a bit of an ATS roll. The Tide have covered five of their last seven and UCLA has covered three of four. Alabama scores in bunches, and it has the look of a team very capable of the Final Four.
The pick: Alabama -5 (-112)
Jack has covered college and professional sports for various Arizona media outlets and has written for the AP, USA Today and Baseball America, among others. He staffed the 2015-17 World Series and has staffed four Super Bowls.