UCLA was one of the most controversial inclusions in this year's NCAA Tournament field, but Steve Alford's Bruins are clicking at the right time, and have made an unexpected run to the Sweet 16. After edging by SMU with the help of a very tough goaltending call, UCLA blew out fellow double-digit seed UAB for the right to face two-seed Gonzaga in Houston. The Bulldogs have handled their business thus far in March. With a ten point win over North Dakota State and a 19 point win over Iowa, Mark Few's team looks poised to erase some of the questions about its ability to win big games in the tournament.
Date: Friday, March 27
Time: 7:15 PM ET
TV Channel: CBS
Location: Houston, TX
Announcers: Jim Nance, Bill Raftery, Grant Hill, Tracy Wolfson
Opening Betting Line: Gonzaga -8.5 (5Dimes)
Prediction: Gonzaga and UCLA met back on December 13 at Pauley Pavillion, and things didn't go very well for the underdog Bruins. Gonzaga rolled, 87-74, behind 24 points from star forward Kyle Wiltjer and 20 points and nine rebounds from Byron Wesley. UCLA's Bryce Alford got his in the match-up, scoring 23 points for the Bruins, but a lack of depth doomed UCLA. Starters Alford, Isaac Hamilton, Kevon Looney, and Norman Powell combined for 67 points, but Tony Parker was quiet (five points), and UCLA's bench was outscored 15-2 in the game.
UCLA is playing better basketball here in March, and they have proven to be a talented team, but Gonzaga is a far more consistent club, and seems to be peaking down the stretch this year. We expect the Bulldogs to take this showdown of West Coast powers, and advance to play the winner of the very exciting Duke-Utah game.