Saint Mary’s CA (26-7) vs UCLA (26-7)
When: Saturday, March 19th 2022
Where: Moda Center,
Time: 7:10 ET | TV: CBS
Opening Odds: UCLA -3/127
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Two California schools who haven’t played since 1990, will square-off Saturday night in the Round of 32 when the Saint Mary’s Gaels take on the UCLA Bruins in Portland, Oregon. Both teams obviously won their opening round games on Thursday, but each looked completely different. We’ll start with Saint Mary’s, who absolutely obliterated the Big Ten’s Indiana Hoosiers 82-53. The Gaels were in control the entire way against an Indiana team who had some delays in getting out to Portland after a win in Dayton, Ohio Tuesday night over Wyoming in the First Four. Saint Mary’s has won seven of their last nine games with the only two setbacks coming at the hands of WCC-rival Gonzaga. The Gaels are 5-2-2 ATS in that span.
The Bruins had their hands full Thursday against the MAC’s Akron Zips, needing a 15-4 to close the game in the 57-53 win over the No. 13 seed. The Bruins shot a dismal 35.2 percent from the floor and 36.4 percent from 3-point land, but only committed seven turnovers total. Akron couldn’t get anything going from beyond the arc, making just 4-of-17. UCLA had 14 assists on their 19 made baskets, while the Zips had just four assists total. UCLA has covered four of their last five games against the West Coast Conference and are 2.5-point favorites in this one. Tip-off at the Moda Center goes at 7:10 p.m. EDT. The winner till take on either Baylor or North Carolina in the Sweet 16.
The Gaels easy victory over Indiana was due in part to some terrific defense. St. Mary’s was facing a tired Hoosier squad and held them to 53 points on 18 made field goals and just two made three-pointers. Offensively, the Gaels shot 51 percent and connected on 10-of-21 three-pointers. Senior guard Logan Johnson led the team with 20 points on 8-of-13 and also had three steals. Four of five Gaels’ starters reached double-digit points – Matthias Tass (12), Alex Ducas (13) and Tommy Kuhse (19). Ducas and Kuhse both went three of six from beyond the arc, with Kuhse also dishing out six assists.
The Bruins averaged nearly 80 points a game this season, so their 57 points against Akron probably won’t get the job done against Saint Mary’s. Point guard Tyger Campbell came through late for the Bruins with a long three-pointer with 79 seconds to go. That erased an eight-point deficit with under eight minutes remaining. The Bruins shot just 35 percent from the field but did nail 11-of-13 free throws. Campbell’s 16 points led the team, and he also chipped in with five assists. UCLA’s top two scorers, Johnny Juzang and Jaime Jaquez Jr., combined for 24 points on 6-of-21 shooting from the field. They’ll need to be better on Saturday.
The Akron game was a wake-up call for this UCLA team, who have a ton of experience and talent to make a run at the Final Four. Saint Mary’s will be the popular pick here, but this UCLA team won’t be denied.
Pick: UCLA -2.5
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