The regional final is coming to Vegas for the first time in tournament history. Las Vegas has always been a college basketball town. The city has hosted conference tournaments for decades and has been the site of major non-conference tournaments.
Now the most compelling Sweet 16 matchups tip off in the great city of Vegas. We have Arkansas-UConn & UCLA vs Gonzaga.
One of these teams will make it to the Four.
Torres gave his betting picks here, and if you need thoughts on the East - Zac has you covered.
But, let's break down these two matchups with odds provided by the Betfred Sportsbook.
West Regional: No. 8 Arkansas vs No. 4 UConn, 7:00 p.m. ET, CBS
Spread: UConn (-4)
You might as well call this the Aaron Torress bowl. Our fearless leader, Torres, is a famous alumnus of the Huskies and he might as well have a doctorate from Arkansas as he leads the Big Pig Invasion in all sports. Eric Musselman has emerged as one of the best tournament coaches in the country making his third straight Sweet 16 appearance and he can make it to his third straight regional final with a win.
Meanwhile, UConn is again looking like the team that was ranked in the top 5 back in December. The Huskies demolished a veteran Saint Mary’s squad and defeated Rick Pitino’s Iona team with ease. The Huskies have outscored their opponents by 40 points in the second half.
The bigger problem for Arkansas, literally is what they do they defend the Huskies’ two-headed monster front court, Adama Sanogo and Donovan Clingan. Sanogo has averaged 26 points on 73 percent shooting in the tournament. The Huskies rank second nationally in offensive rebounding percentage, Arkansas ranks 137th in cleaning up the glass. The Huskies offensive rebounds often turn into second chance three-point shots or easy twos. Arkansas is going to have to be competitive on the glass here to have a chance.
On the other side, Arkansas success is going to drive from their own physicality. UConn ranks 319th in opponents free throws attempted, and the Hogs get to the line at a top 25 rate. Devo Davis and Ricky Council have carried Arkansas in their win against Kansas, while star freshmen Nick Smtih and Anthony Black struggled. We still haven’t seen the Hogs play their best game.
I like Musselman as a tournament coach. I had the Hogs as my dark horse to win the region. I think I have to stick with them here. I prefer playing Arkansas in the first half but I think they makes this game close and cover the spread.
The pick: Arkansas +4
West Regional: No. 3 Gonzaga vs. No. 2 UCLA, 9:30 p.m. ET, CBS
Spread: UCLA -2
Gonzaga and UCLA have turned into a March Madness rivalry. We have the Jalen Suggs half court buzzer beater that sent Gonzaga to the national championship and we have the famous Morrison crying game in the Sweet 16. The Zags and UCLA met on the same floor last season when the teams were ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the country in a late November tilt. Gonzaga won that game 83-63 in a route. But there are plenty of new faces and teams are different.
Who has the advantage in this showdown of West Coast powers?
The main question is here, how is the health of David Singleton? The Bruins are already out with Jaylen Clark, so another injury on the wing would significantly hurt here. If Singleton is unable to go, the Bruins will have to trust one of their top freshmen stars to step up. Dylan Andrews and Will McClendon can be those guys. The two teams play contrasting styles. Gonzaga ranks first overall in offensive efficiency while UCLA ranks second nationally in defensive efficiency.
This game is going to come to UCLA’s offensive vs Gonzaga’s defense. Gonzaga ranks 75th in defensive efficiency but they rank in the bottom 200 in defensive field goal percentage. When Gonzaga isn’t causing teams to turn the ball over, they are relatively easy to score on. The problem is, UCLA’s guards don’t turn the ball over. UCLA has multiple scorers that can score in isolation. Star freshman Amari Bailey has shown that he can be a dominant penetrator to the rim . The Zags don’t have any rim protection. I like UCLA’s advantage on that side of the court.
For the Zags, they are just going to have to score more points. Simple right? UCLA doesn’t have anyone for Drew Timme, he is going to put up his 20. The Zags needJulian Strawther to go off. When he is hitting threes, they are almost unbeatable. The matchup with Strawther is where the Bruins are going to miss Jaylen Clark. UCLA has still be successful with their pressure defense. Gonzaga is another animial. The Gonzaga offense — that has the 12th-lowest turnover rate in the country — will be able to handle the pressure Cronin’s defense will look to create transition opportunities cause of it.
At the end of the day this is a hard game to pick. I lean UCLA but I need to know Singelton’s status. With Gonzaga pushing the pace and their inefficient on defense I’m just going to pick the over here. Not sure if UCLA can win a shootout, but there should be a lot of possessions. There is a lot of overtime potential here. Let’s go with the over.
The pick: Over 145.5
To get full odds on the entire NCAA Tournament visit Betfred Sportsbook
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