The Northwestern Wildcats and UCLA Bruins each kept their postseason runs alive Thursday night by winning their respective opening games.
However, one team’s dreams of a championship will come to an end Saturday when the two meet in the Round of 32.
The Wildcats defeated Boise State 75-67 in Northwestern’s second appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Unlike their run in 2017, however, the Wildcats will be looking to make it farther than the second round.
The Bruins, meanwhile, will be aiming to avoid a similar fate as past No. 2 seeds in their position. Although No. 2 seeds have only lost 11 games in the opening round, including Arizona on Thursday, more second-seeded teams have been defeated in the second round than any other round in the tournament.
Both teams will be trying to exorcise some demons in the matchup, but according to college basketball lines, the Bruins are a 7½-point favorite.
Northwestern Heats Up
The Northwestern Wildcats’ defense has been solid this season, but it was their strong shooting that captured the win against Boise State.
Northwestern hasn’t been the strongest offensive team, as its 67.7 points on 40.6% shooting was 12th and last in the Big Ten, respectively. However, that changed in its round one win.
Against Boise State, the Wildcats shot 49.1% from the field and 38.1% from beyond the arc, finishing with 75 points.
Northwestern was led by Boo Buie and Chase Audige, its first- and second-leading scorers, who put up 22 and 20 points, respectively.
BOO BUIE FROM DOWNTOWN 🔥
Northwestern continues to fend off every Boise State run 👀#MarchMadness @NUMensBBall pic.twitter.com/OTQuCBe1Qt
— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) March 17, 2023
The Wildcats’ ability to rely on more than their defense may be a game-changer for this team.
UCLA Switches Gears
Like Northwestern, defense has been the Bruins strength this season, as they are seventh in the nation with 60.3 points allowed.
However, with UCLA missing Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Jaylen Clark, the Bruins turned the heat up offensively in their 86-53 win over UNC Asheville.
UCLA was second in the Pac-12 in both scoring and field goal percentage, averaging 73.9 points on 45.8% shooting, and it improved both of those numbers in its win.
The Bruins shot 59.4% in the first half against the Bulldogs, finishing with a 54% shooting percentage to score 86 points. UCLA was led by Amari Bailey and Jaime Jaquez Jr. with 17 points each, but three others reached double figures as well.
Without Clark, UCLA’s balanced offense may help them withstand some tougher teams in the tournament.
According to NCAA basketball odds, UCLA has +1200 odds to win March Madness.
Northwestern vs UCLA Game Injuries
Northwestern vs UCLA Head-to-Head
Northwestern and UCLA have met once previously, in November 2013 in Las Vegas, which resulted in a 95-79 Bruins victory.
According to college basketball odds, UCLA has +350 odds to reach the Final Four while the sportsbook gives Northwestern +3600 odds to do so.
Northwestern vs UCLA Game Information
- Game: Northwestern (22-11) vs UCLA (30-5)
- Location: Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, CA
- Day/Time: Saturday, March 18, 8:40 p.m. ET
- Northwestern vs UCLA Live Stream: TBS.com
Northwestern vs UCLA Betting lines
Northwestern vs UCLA Picks and Prediction
Northwestern and UCLA will meet in the second round after each won their first game in a different fashion than normal.
Although the Bruins were without their top defensive weapon in Clark, that didn’t appear to affect them. They held the Bulldogs to 53 points on 37.3% shooting while lighting it up offensively as well. Northwestern was similar, limiting Boise State to 40% shooting, but the Broncos kept it close through much of the game. Following games where each team shot lights out in their respective matchups, something’s gotta give in round two. The Wildcats’ shooting should regress closer toward the mean, so take the Bruins in the win.
The UCLA Bruins are listed at -355 in our Vegas lines. This means that if you wager $100 on the Bruins, you have a chance to win $28. The Northwestern Wildcats are +282, offering a chance to win $282 on a $100 wager.
The implied probability attached to the betting lines gives the UCLA Bruins a 78.02% chance to win, with the Northwestern Wildcats at 26.18%.