Only three games are left in the NCAA Tournament before crowning a champion and dethrone the Virginia Cavaliers as most recent National Champions. In this matchup, West Regional winners, 30-0 Gonzaga Bulldogs, a matchup with the UCLA Bruins going from the first-four to final-four, for only the 2nd time.
Gonzaga is two wins away from creating history–by becoming unbeaten national champions for the first time since 1975-76, Indiana sealed the deal. It hasn’t transpired for a long-time for a reason; it’s hard to go unbeaten through the grind of an entire season. Look, Gonzaga doesn’t play in the toughest conference, but the WCC isn’t horrible. Gonzaga’s only won ONE game this entire season by less than ten points-that one came against West Virginia back in early December. Gonzaga’s four tournament wins lead to the final four. The average margin of victory is an absurdly high 21.5.
Many thought Drew Timme could struggle against Evan Mobley, but instead, the All-American player dropped 23 points on the future top-three draftee. Facing a depleted Zags frontcourt could give Timme the chance to put on a field-day, while Cody Riley can defend. If he gets in foul trouble, inexperienced guys like Kenneth Nwuba & Mac Etienne will be forced into action.
Star guard Jalen Suggs conducts the nation’s most potent offense and could thrive in this one. We’ve seen games where Suggs takes over & others when he defers to teammates. These next two games, especially this one, look for Suggs to thrive. Suggs dropped 18-9-8 in Gonzaga’s elite eight route over USC.
UCLA’s going to try playing deliberately, dribble the air out of the ball & make Gonzaga play their pace. If you let the Zags play their pace (sixth quickest in the country) & run up and down the floor, getting in transition, using elite ball movement trying to find the best possible shot. It’s a real team effort for the Zags.
If the Bruins try to outscore Gonzaga, it’s not going to result in a final-four victory for Mick Cronin; we need an old-school Cronin-style game in this one. We saw a vintage Mick Cronin game in the win over Michigan, but the Zags & Wolverines are two vastly different teams. Michigan didn’t have the offensive fire.
The Bruins got 28 points from Johnny Juzang in the stunning victory over Michigan, but only 51 points. If there’s any chance for UCLA–Juzang might be required to add 20+, but guys like Jaime Jaquez, Tyger Campbell & Jules Bernard adding scoring is huge.
If UCLA is able to nail threes as they did against Alabama (10-29) or somewhere around there–UCLA is in a vastly better spot.
Cody Riley staying on the floor could make the game compelling due to the value he adds on both ends, especially defensively; stopping Drew Timme is vital.
PREDICTION: Gonzaga 91, UCLA 70
Gonzaga’s proven all season why they’re the “top dog,” and that’s not changing in this one. There’s not a real scenario in my eyes where Gonzaga isn’t headed to the National Championship. And now, Mark Few’s one game away from leading his team to the unchartered territory for many College Basketball teams-becoming unbeaten National Champions.