The 2021-22 college basketball season is in full swing, and the nonconference schedule is loaded with matchups between the top teams in the country. Below is my analysis and favorite bets for Tuesday’s primetime matchup between UCLA and Gonzaga.

 

 

UCLA vs. Gonzaga

(Line: Gonzaga -5.5, O/U 156.5, DraftKings Sportsbook)

You can’t ask for much more than an early-season matchup between No. 1 and No. 2, as Gonzaga squares off against UCLA in a rematch of last year’s epic Final Four game. Bruins fans are still haunted by Jalen Suggs’ last-second halfcourt heave that sent UCLA packing after their magical five-game tournament run. After taking the Zags to the wire and having much higher expectations this season, UCLA faithful believe they can knock off the seemingly unstoppable Bulldogs. I am not so sure about that.

Taking a look back at that Final Four matchup, UCLA shot the ball extremely well, hitting tough mid-range shots throughout the entire game. Per Shot Quality, based on the quality of shots taken that game, Gonzaga was expected to win by a whopping 22 points. Although the final score was close, the metrics make it evident that Gonzaga completely out classed the Bruins. 

Both teams bring back core pieces from last year’s squads plus some talented additions, especially in the frontcourt. Blue chip freshman Chet Holmgren highlights the Gonzaga newcomers with his presence felt more on the defensive end, which is where they struggled a year ago. Enforcer Myles Johnson comes over to UCLA from Rutgers to help anchor the interior defense of the Bruins. Both teams are off to good starts to the season with marquee wins over top-10 teams. What I have noticed most to start this season is UCLA is playing much faster than a year ago (rank 48th in average offensive possession length nationally) and seems to be a little more laxed on defense, which Mick Cronin has highlighted in many of his press conferences. UCLA’s backcourt certainly is talented, but if you are looking to run with Gonzaga you are asking for trouble. It’s pretty much impossible to keep up with Andrew Nembhard, Drew Timme and Mark Few’s flawless continuity offense. Unless UCLA can again hit tough shots the entire game, I see the Zags getting way better looks and running away with this one.

The Pick: Gonzaga -5.5 

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