South Regional Semifinal Betting Preview: #3 UCLA Bruins vs #2 Kentucky Wildcats

2017 NCAA Tournament
South Regional Semifinals
#2 Kentucky Wildcats vs #3 UCLA Bruins
Friday, March 24, 2017, 9:35 pm Eastern, TV: CBS
FedEx Forum – Memphis, Tennessee
Opening Line: Kentucky -1 1/2
Current Line: Kentucky pick
Opening Total: 169 1/2
Current Total: 165 1/2
Opening Money Line: Kentucky -114 / UCLA +101
Current Money Line: Kentucky -109 / UCLA -103

Kentucky and UCLA meet in the Sweet 16 Friday night.

Two of college basketball’s elite programs meet as the 31-5 Kentucky Wildcats take on the 31-4 UCLA Bruins in the South Regional semifinals Friday in Memphis. Kentucky is the #2 seed and UCLA is the #3 seed. The winner will face either the #1 seed North Carolina Tar Heels or the #4 Butler Bulldogs in the regional final Sunday. The South is the only region where all four top seeds made the Sweet 16.

Kentucky leads the series 7-6 against UCLA. The Bruins have won two straight games in the series including 97-92 in Lexington earlier this season. This is the third time overall and first since 1998 that Kentucky and UCLA have met in the NCAA Tournament.

UCLA is coached by Steve Alford. The Bruins finished third in the Pac 12 at 15-3 a game behind 16-2 Oregon and Arizona. UCLA lost to Arizona 86-75 in the Pac 12 semifinals in Las Vegas. UCLA beat #14 Kent State 97-80 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and #6 Cincinnati 79-67 in the second round Sunday, both in Sacramento. UCLA is making their 48th appearance in the tournament and 34th trip to the Sweet 16.

UCLA has road losses at Oregon and USC, plus a home loss to Arizona. The Bruins have home wins over Pacific, CS-Northridge, San Diego, Long Beach State, UC-Riverside, Michigan, UC-Santa Barbara, Western Michigan, Cal, Stanford, Arizona State, Oregon, Oregon State, USC, Washington, and Washington State. UCLA has road wins at Kentucky, Oregon State, Colorado, Utah, Washington State, Washington, Arizona and Arizona State, plus neutral site wins over Portland and Nebraska in Fullerton, Texas A&M in Anaheim, plus Ohio State and USC in Las Vegas. The Bruins are 17-18 ATS and the total is 16-17-2 this season. UCLA was a 3.5 point favorite against Cincinnati and the total was 153.5.

Kentucky is coached by John Calipari. The Wildcats won the SEC regular season title with a 16-2 record. The Wildcats have won 13 straight games including winning the SEC championship game in Nashville against Arkansas 82-65. Kentucky beat #15 seed Northern Kentucky 79-70 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and #10 Wichita State 65-62 in the second round Sunday, both in Indianapolis. Kentucky is making their 57th trip to the Tournament and 42nd trip to the Sweet 16.

Kentucky has home losses to UCLA and Kansas, plus road losses to Louisville, Tennessee and Florida. The Wildcats have neutral site wins over Michigan State in New York City, Arizona State in the Bahamas, Hofstra in Brooklyn, North Carolina in Las Vegas, plus Georgia, Alabama and Arkansas in Nashville. Kentucky has home wins over Stephen F. Austin, Duquesne, Cleveland State, Valparaiso, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Auburn, South Carolina, Georgia, LSU, Tennessee, Florida, and Vanderbilt. The Wildcats have road wins over Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Alabama, Georgia, Missouri, and Texas A&M. Kentucky is 18-17-1 ATS and the total is 17-19 this season. The Wildcats were 3 point favorites against Wichita State and the total was 149.5.

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UCLA is outscoring teams 90-75 this season. UCLA leads the country in scoring.  The Bruins are shooting 52.1% from the field and 40.6% from 3 point range. UCLA is #1 nationally in field goal percentage and #4 in three point shooting. UCLA makes 74.1% of their free throws. Opponents are shooting 42% from the field and 36.3% from three point range. The Bruins average 38.8 rebounds per game and opponents average 32.2. UCLA is #37 in rebounding  nationally. The Bruins average 21.6 assists, 11.2 turnovers, 6 steals and 5.3 blocks per game. Opponents average 12.9 assists, 11.9 turnovers, 6.3 steals and 1.7 blocks per game.

T.J. Leaf averages 16.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.1 blocks per game. Bryce Alford averages 15.6 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game. Lonzo Ball averages 14.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, 7.6 assists and 1.9 steals per game. Isaac Hamilton averages 14 points 3.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists. Aaron Holiday averages 12.5 points, 2.9 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.1 steals  per game. Thomas Welsh averages 10.8 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. Armani Dodson, Prince Ali and Alex Olesinki are all out for the season.

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Kentucky is outscoring teams 85-71 this season. Kentucky is #9 in scoring nationally. The Wildcats are shooting 47.4% from the field and 35% from 3 point range. The Wildcats are #40 in field goal percentage. Kentucky makes 70.3% of their free throws. Opponents are shooting 42% from the field and 30.5% from three point range. The Wildcats are #11 in three point defense nationally. Kentucky averages 40.3 rebounds per game and opponents average 31.6. Kentucky is #13 in rebounding nationally. The Wildcats average 15.3 assists, 11.9 turnovers, 6 steals and 5.4 blocks per game. Opponents average 11.1 assists, 14.3 turnovers, 4.8 steals and 3.1 blocks per game.

Malik Monk averages 20 points, 2.5  rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1 steal per game. De’Aaron Fox  averages 16.1 points, 4 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.4 steals per game. Edrice Adebayo averages 13.3 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. Isaiah Briscoe averages 12.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. Derek Willis averages 7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. Sacha Killeya-Jones is out indefinitely with an illness.

UCLA is 10-2 ATS in non-conference games, 9-4 as an underdog of less than 6.5 points, 4-11 against teams with winning records, 7-20 as a neutral site underdog, 2-6 as an NCAA Tournament underdog of less than 6.5 points, 3-10 against SEC teams, 1-4 as an NCAA Tournament underdog and overall, and 1-6 after a cover. The Bruins are 5-1 ATS against the Wildcats recently.

Kentucky is 4-1 ATS in Friday games, 3-1-1 as a favorite of less than 6.5 points, 9-4-1 as a neutral site favorite and in neutral site games, 1-4-1 in NCAA Tournament games and as a tournament favorite, 0-3-1 in non-conference games, and 0-3-2 as a tournament favorite of less than 6.5 points.

Don’t expect a lot of half court basketball in this game as both teams like to run. UCLA is only a three seed despite only losing four games. This is mainly due to a soft non-conference schedule that included mostly the smaller in-state California schools. UCLA won a classic earlier this year in Lexington, but both teams have improved since then. I like Kentucky to get revenge and advance to the Elite Eight.

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