Betting Preview and Prediction: Alabama vs. UCLA

Alabama is seeking its second Elite Eight appearance and its first trip to the Final Four in program history.

Alabama Crimson Tide vs. UCLA Bruins Betting Preview

Line: Alabama -6.5

Total: 145.5

Where: Hinkle Fieldhouse

When: Sunday, 3/28, at 7:15 p.m. ET

TV: TBS

Second-seeded Alabama will face a double-digit seed in the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive game when it plays No. 11 UCLA on Sunday night.

The Crimson Tide have a chance to match the deepest NCAA Tournament run in program history (2004) with a win. UCLA had to open its tournament run with an overtime victory over Michigan State in the First Four, but it has taken advantage of its opportunity.

Alabama opened as a six-point favorite and the betting action has moved the line to -6.5 as of Friday morning. Sunday night’s total opened at 143.5 and has risen to 145.5.

Nate Oats has rejuvenated the Crimson Tide’s basketball program in just two years. Oats’ high-octane offense has fit perfectly with the plethora of outside shooters on the roster.

They poured in 16 treys in a 96-77 win over No. 10 Maryland on Monday, easily covering as six-point favorites. Their tournament started with a 68-55 non-covering win over Rick Pitino and No. 15 Iona.

Sophomore guard Jaden Shackelford leads the team with his 14.3 points-per-game average and is coming off a 21-point outing against the Terrapins. Alabama ranks No. 28 in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency ratings and is shooting 35.5% from beyond the arc.

Senior guard John Petty Jr. had been cold for three consecutive games, but he came alive for 20 points against Maryland. Petty Jr. hit four 3-pointers after only making 8-of-34 shots from the floor over his previous three games.

Alabama’s balanced offense features four players averaging double figures. It will be going up against a UCLA defense that is No. 182 in opponent’s effective field goal percentage and No. 260 in opponent’s turnover rate. The Bruins are excellent on the defensive glass, though.

They have made their living on the other end of the court this season, where they are No. 12 in adjusted offensive efficiency. UCLA scored 86 points in an OT win over Michigan State in the First Four before beating sixth-seeded BYU by 11 points in the first round. It advanced to the program’s 20th Sweet 16 with a 67-47 win over No. 14 Abilene Christian, which was unable to replicate its upset of third-seeded Texas.

Head coach Mick Cronin is also in his second year with the program. The Bruins do not play up-tempo like Alabama, but they are very efficient offensively. They rank No. 28 in 3-point percentage and are No. 38 in turnover rate.

Former Kentucky guard Johnny Juzang leads UCLA in scoring (15.1 PPG) and pulls down 4.1 rebounds per game. He has scored a combined 67 points in the team’s three NCAA Tournament games. Juzang has four other teammates averaging double figures as well.

This will be the toughest defense the Bruins have faced all season. Alabama is now third nationally in adjusted efficiency and is No. 8 in opponent’s 3-point percentage. The Crimson Tide have more height and more experience in this matchup.

Alabama has covered the spread at a 5-2 clip in its last seven games and is 8-1-1 ATS in its last 10 games against a Pac-12 opponent. UCLA has covered in four of its last five games and is 4-1 ATS in its last five games against SEC foes.  

The total has gone ‘under’ in six of the Crimson Tide’s last nine games. UCLA has gone ‘under’ in eight of its last 12 games as an underdog.

The pick: UCLA +6.5

Is Alabama capable of staying hot from beyond the arc and winning this game by double digits? Absolutely. However, the Crimson Tide have shown some inconsistencies on offense throughout the season and this spread is a few points too high. KenPom has the game lined at Alabama -4, but the betting action has pushed it up to -6.5. UCLA has looked like an extremely confident team throughout the tournament and it fared well against its Pac-12 opponents that shoot a lot of outside shots. The Bruins are excellent from the charity stripe and Alabama likes to put its opponents on the free throw line.

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