UCLA vs. North Carolina Odds, Picks & Predictions: NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Betting Preview

UCLA vs. North Carolina Odds, Picks & Predictions: NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Betting Preview article feature image

Abbie Parr/Getty Images. Pictured: Jules Bernard (1) of the UCLA Bruins.

UCLA vs. North Carolina Odds

Friday, March 25
9:39 p.m. ET
-110o / -110u
North Carolina Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute college basketball odds here.

This is a brand-name battle.

North Carolina and UCLA are two of the biggest names in the sport. The game is going to draw a lot of betting attention, specifically from die-hard Heel and Bruin fans.

Plus, it's the best jersey battle of the tournament. Even if it's ugly, this game will be aesthetically pleasing.

But are we truly in for an ugly battle? What should we expect in this Sweet 16 game?

North Carolina Tar Heels

The Tar Heels are the most confounding team in the nation.

UNC has the talent, but it has struggled to put it all together. Hubert Davis had some growing pains, but the team finally played well down the stretch. After losing to Pittsburgh on Feb. 16, the Heels ripped off six straight wins, taking down Virginia Tech, Virginia, Syracuse and Duke in the process.

The offense has been cooking. Brady Manek's outbreak has been important, as he's averaging 21 points per game on a 65.9 eFG% over his last five. Those are both significant bumps over his season-long averages (15.1 PPG, 60.1 eFG%).

He's also shooting the lights out. Manek is shooting over 40% from deep since the calendar flipped to February.


Davis and Manek combine for 44 points and eight threes. @UNC_Basketballpic.twitter.com/FP9kccVTwq

— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) March 19, 2022

Put a hot Manek next to Armando Bacot, and you've got arguably the best frontcourt in the nation.

When the Tar Heels are rolling, they crash the glass hard (second in DRB%), defend smart (10th in opponent FTR) and run the floor (32nd in tempo).

The question will be if UNC can make UCLA play at its up-tempo pace. Whichever team controls the pace will win the game.

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UCLA Bruins

Meanwhile, UCLA is going to play slow (271st in tempo), create isolation opportunities (48th in iso frequency) and live in the mid-range (sixth in mid-range frequency).

Obviously, UCLA is not an analytically friendly team. The Bruins are 353rd in rim-and-3 rate, and metrics tend to rate that negatively.

But UCLA has three of the best and toughest shot-makers in the NCAA. Johnny Juzang, Jules Bernard and Jaime Jaquez Jr. consistently make those shots.

Image credit: CBB Analytics

Moreover, the Bruins have a savvy point guard in Tyger Campbell. He knows how to get the ball to the shotmakers at their spots, and he's no slouch shooting, either (54.3 eFG%).

The defense is tough. Mick Cronin can switch two through five effortlessly, and the Bruins rank in the 85th percentile in PPP allowed when playing man defense (.812).

All-in-all, UCLA is steady and consistent. The team sticks to its pace, trusts its game plan and suffocates on defense. When the Bruins are healthy, they're a gritty team that is tough to beat.

Unfortunately, the Bruins aren't healthy. Jaquez is questionable with an ankle injury he suffered last weekend against Saint Mary's. We likely won't know until warmups if he's in or out.

That injury makes this game significantly harder to handicap.

UCLA vs. North Carolina Betting Pick

If Jaquez is healthy, I like UCLA in this matchup.

There's analytical value on UCLA, as both KenPom and ShotQuality make this spread UCLA -4.

But moreover, UNC isn't equipped to stop UCLA's game plan. The Tar Heels are 163rd in mid-range defensive efficiency and 126th in isolation defensive efficiency.

Moreover, the Heels don't pressure the ball. UNC is sub-350 in both defensive turnover rate and non-steal turnover rate. Campbell will have all the time in the world to set up the offense and more importantly, play at his pace.

And, as mentioned, whoever controls the pace will win the game. UCLA will have every opportunity to do that.

But if Jaquez is out, it takes away one of the Bruins' premier shotmakers and toughest defenders.

I don't see this line budging from -2.5. I'm going to wait as long as possible before I play UCLA, and hopefully, we'll get injury news sooner rather than later.

If we don't know his status until the tip, I'll likely still play UCLA but with less confidence.

Pick: UCLA -2.5 if Jaquez is healthy

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