UNC Asheville vs UCLA Odds & Prediction: Bet Drew Pember & Bulldogs

UNC Asheville vs UCLA Odds & Prediction: Bet Drew Pember & Bulldogs article feature image

Getty Images. Design by Matt Roembke/Action Network. Pictured from left: Jaime Jaquez Jr. of UCLA and Drew Pember of UNC Asheville.

  • The UCLA Bruins take on the UNC Ashville Bulldogs in a 2-15 matchup in Thursday's opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
  • The Bulldogs are led by one of the best mid-major players in the country in Drew Pember, which gives them value, according to DJ James.
  • Check out James' full betting preview and pick for UNC Asheville vs UCLA below.

UNC Asheville vs UCLA Odds

Thursday, March 16
10:05 p.m. ET
UNC Asheville Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
Odds via bet365. Get up-to-the-minute college basketball odds here.

The UCLA Bruins are strong favorites as the two-seed in their first-round NCAA tournament matchup with the UNC Asheville Bulldogs on Thursday, but the absence of Jaylen Clark — who was lost for the season in the Bruins' regular-season finale — will undoubtedly be felt.

The Bulldogs enter the tournament ranked 146th, per KenPom, but they can hit 3s, hold teams in check from deep and are red-hot (nine-game winning streak).

Doing work from behind the arc is often the recipe for a big underdog keeping things close in the NCAA tournament. The Bulldogs might just have what it takes against the short-handed Bruins.

UNC Asheville Bulldogs

UNC Asheville has one of the nation’s most under-the-radar players in Drew Pember. The Tennessee transfer has made a name for himself in the Big South this season, averaging 21.2 points and 9.4 rebounds per game while shooting 38% from deep.

30 Piece for Drew Pemberpic.twitter.com/6ci6nFYnuG

— Mid-Major Madness (@mid_madness) March 4, 2023

He is not the only threat, either. Tajion Jones shoots nearly 46% from 3-point land, and Fletcher Abee is hitting better than 40%.

UCLA has had success defending the perimeter all season, holding opponents to just 31.1% from 3-point range this season. But this is a different team without Clark, who averaged nearly three steals per game and is one of the best players in the country in transition.

UNC Asheville ranks 12th in points per possession (PPP) on off-the-dribble 3s and 37th in the nation in Open 3 Rate.

UCLA ranks 40th defensively in Open 3 Rate, but look for the Bulldogs to knock down some 3s anyway because the Bruins rank just 273rd in PPP on catch-and-shoot 3s and 82nd on off-the-dribble 3s.

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UCLA Bruins

UCLA is an elite transition team on both sides of the ball. The Bruins rank 11th in turnover rate on defense, and while Clark was a big factor given his propensity for steals, they should have the turnover edge.

UNC Asheville needs to protect the ball and dictate the pace of this game to have a chance. Simply put, the Bulldogs can't allow the Bruins get out in transition as often as they'd like.

UCLA ranks 18th in PPP in transition, while the Bulldogs rank 284th in defensive transition.

Even if they are getting out in transition, the Bruins will likely be exchanging 3s for 2s. The Bruins are not too efficient on offense. They rank 143rd in 3-point percentage and 181st in 2-point percentage.

They don't shoot much from behind the arc in general, ranking just 339th in 3-point attempt rate, while sitting a surprising 316th in free-throw attempt rate, as well.

The Bulldogs will undoubtedly struggle on the defensive end. This is a team built around its offense — ranking just 313th in PPP at the rim — so Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Co. could feast.

The Bulldogs will need to counter the Bruins' offensive advantage by hitting a high percentage of their shots from 3-point range.

Another spot the Bulldogs will try to take advantage of is their ability to get to the line. UCLA ranks just 77th in free-throw attempt rate on defense, while UNC Asheville is 12th in free-throw attempt rate on defense.

The Bulldogs also don't foul a lot, so again, the recipe for them to keep this game close — in addition to hitting their 3-point attempts — is getting to the line and keeping the Bruins off of it.

UNC Asheville vs UCLA Betting Pick

UCLA is a sound team on both side of the floor, but if the Bulldogs are hitting 3s and getting to the stripe, they can duel with the best.

This team is far too efficient from deep and should be able to find holes in UCLA’s perimeter defense. Meanwhile, the Bruins will feel Clark's absence more than you might expect in a 2-15 game.

Take UNC Asheville to cover this big spread down to +16.5.

Pick: UNC Asheville +17.5 (Play to +16.5)

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