The UCLA Bruins are peaking at the right time, and their latest rankings in the AP Top 25 and the USA Today Coaches’ Poll show it. The Bruins closed out the 2022-23 regular season with a 10-game winning streak, including a big home win over Arizona in the finale, as Jaime Jaquez Jr led the Bruins to a comeback win and a perfect (17-0) home record. The Bruins received three first-place votes in the last AP poll of the regular season, and frankly, given the strength of schedule that top-ranked Houston has faced, the Bruins should have gotten more. The Bruins likely need to win the Pac-12 Tournament to snag a 1-seed in March Madness, as they are right there with Baylor, Texas and Purdue for the last top seed after Houston, Alabama and Kansas. But can the Bruins win a national title?
Let’s look at their strengths and weaknesses as you consider your NCAA basketball betting decisions.
NCAA Basketball Betting: Can UCLA Win the National Championship?
Houston Cougars Info | Updated NCAA Basketball Odds
29-2 overall and 17-1 in American Athletic play – 1st
Conference: American Athletic
Venue: Fertitta Center, Houston, Texas
Why doesn’t UCLA already deserve a 1-seed?
Whoever wins the Big 12 Tournament would need to pick up three Quadrant 1 wins to do so. If UCLA makes at least the finals of the Pac-12 Tournament, their #2 ranking should keep them as a top seed. If UCLA slides to a #2 seed, they might not even end up in the West region, because they would likely be replaced by Baylor or Texas. Bracketing principles generally keep top squads from one conference out of the same region, so if Kansas gets the #1 seed in the Midwest, UCLA might get the #2 seed there, and Baylor or Texas might take the #1 seed out west. So winning and winning convincingly have to be the top priorities for UCLA, so they can take advantage of being in control of their own destiny.
The Bruins just had their best win of the season, but…
Turning around an early 10-point deficit at home against Arizona into a convincing win showed us just how good the Bruins can be. Jaime Jaquez Jr was terrific once again, hitting 20 or more points for the sixth time in his last seven games. David Singleton knocked down five shots from distance, a season best. The key question for UCLA going into the Pac-12 tournament is the health of Jaylen Clark, the team’s top defender. He had to depart with a leg injury and finished the gamme on crutches, with a boot holding his right foot. His offense took off this season, making him a big two-way contributor. The Bruins will need him to make a deep run.
Where is UCLA projected to start the tournament?
ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has the Bruins projected as the 1-seed in the West region, playing Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the first round. It would be the first meeting between the programs. The Sweet 16, in Lunardi’s projected bracket, would pit UCLA against St. Mary’s, if the seeds hold. This would be a rematch of a second-round matchup in 2022, when UCLA rolled over St. Mary’s, 72-56. Kentucky and Gonzaga also appear in Lunardi’s projected West bracket. Kentucky lost to UCLA back in December and has not beaten UCLA since 2017, when they stopped the Bruins in the Sweet 16. Gonzaga last faced UCLA in the Final Four two years ago, when Jalen Suggs made a buzzer-beater from midcourt to send the Bulldogs past the Bruins. Like any bracket, the West will have plenty of pitfalls looming. We’ll see from the Pac-12 Tournament how ready UCLA is to sustain wins in a more stressful scenario than twice-weekly conference games.
College Basketball Betting Odds
Love betting NCAA basketball? | Xbet Sportsbook offers up to date college basketball lines