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March Madness Analysis: Why UCLA Will Win

College basketball wrapped up its regular season over the weekend. At this point, we have a good idea of which teams will contend in the NCAA Tournament. Conference tournaments will be the last chance to check out some of the nation’s best teams before Selection Sunday.

UCLA could be the hottest team in the country. The Bruins are riding an 11-game winning streak and seven wins were by at least nine points. UCLA figures to be a popular national championship prediction among March Madness expert picks. Here’s why the Bruins will grab their 12th national title.

Tyger Campbell #10 of the UCLA Bruins - Ronald Martinez/AFP
Tyger Campbell #10 of the UCLA Bruins - Ronald Martinez/AFP

Blazing Hot at the Right Time

Completing March Madness brackets has become one of the best traditions in sports. Finding out who’s hot is always necessary. These squads usually stand out in the 68-team field and become popular March Madness picks. Look no further than UCLA.

The Bruins check nearly every box for a national championship pick. They are playing at their peak at the perfect time. UCLA coasted in the last month and won the regular-season Pac-12 title by four games. According to college basketball lines, the Bruins are the favorite to win the Pac-12 Tournament at +105.

After an 82-73 win over then-No.8 Arizona on Saturday, UCLA is firmly holding a No. 1 seed. It ranks second overall in Kenpom ratings, 24th in offensive efficiency and second in defensive efficiency. Leading scorer Jaime Jaquez Jr. (17.5 points) is red hot with 21.6 points per game in the last five. Freshman center Adem Bona is hitting his stride as an enforcing rim protector with 12 total blocks in the last five. Nearly everything is trending in the right direction. The defense is playing well and the offense has balanced scoring.

UCLA’s odds to win March Madness sit at +900, which is the fourth choice. The last four national champions were No. 1 seeds. Since 2002, every champion has finished in the top 25 of Kenpom’s offensive and defensive efficiency. Also, 11 of the last 12 champs were ranked in the top 10 of the AP Poll on Feb. 1. The Bruins check every single box.

Are there any reasons to hesitate about UCLA?

Causes for Concern?

The Bruins’ size could be the biggest concern heading into the postseason. The frontcourt features 6-foot-7 Jaquez and 6-foot-10 Bona. If they run into a big team, like Purdue with 7-foot-4 Zach Edey, there could be problems. UCLA ranks 102nd in defensive rebounding percentage and in the bottom third nationally of defensive rebounds per game.

At times, the Bruins have been able to win the rebound battle against bigger teams. In fact, UCLA just outrebounded Arizona, which features perhaps the best frontcourt nationally. Good offensive rebounding teams could give the Bruins the most trouble, like Houston.

In addition, UCLA is not an efficient shooting team, ranking outside the top 100 in 2-point and 3-point percentages. Yet, the Bruins have plenty of capable scorers, as we have seen over the last month. Featuring one of the nation’s top defenses creates room for error as well.

There’s a reason college basketball odds list UCLA as one of the favorites to cut down the nets. The Bruins are an excellent March Madness prediction to win it all. However, here’s something to keep in mind. No team west of Texas has won a national championship since Arizona in 1997. Will UCLA snap the West Coast cold spell?

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