Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#815 Northwestern vs.
#816 UCLA
Saturday, March 18, 2023 at 8:40pm EDT
Written by The Admiral


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Northwestern Wildcats (22-11) vs. UCLA Bruins (30-5)

The 2023 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Second Round starts Saturday, March 18, so we are breaking down the West Region showdown from Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California, to get you the best Northwestern vs. UCLA betting pick and odds. 

The Wildcats and Bruins lock horns for the first time since 2013 when UCLA beat Northwestern 95-79 as a 14-point fave. The Bruins open as 7.5-point favorites this time around, while the totals are listed at 127.0 points.  

Northwestern hopes to see more of the same from Boo Buie

The No. 7 Northwestern Wildcats (22-11; 20-13 ATS) outlasted the No. 10 Boise State Broncos 75-67 as 2-point favorites in the first round of the 2023 March Madness. The Wildcats shot 49.1% from the field (8-for-21 from deep) and 83.3% from the foul line (15-for-18) while turning the ball over just seven times, but they also allowed a whopping 20 offensive rebounds to their rivals. 

Senior guard Boo Buie tortured Boise State for 22 points on 8-for-14 shooting from the field. He also had five rebounds, five assists, and only one turnover, while fellow senior guard Chase Audige had 20 points, six rebounds, and four steals. Buie is tallying 17.3 points and 4.5 assists per game this season, and Audige is adding 14.0 points and 3.5 rebounds a night. 

Northwestern finished the regular season second in the Big Ten Conference but suffered a 67-65 overtime loss to Penn State in the conference tournament quarterfinal. Back in February, the Wildcats recorded a couple of home wins over then-No. 1 Purdue 64-58 and No. 14 Indiana 64-62. However, they are only 2-4 SU and 3-3 ATS over their previous six games overall. 

The Wildcats lean on their defense, yielding 94.0 points per 100 possessions (18th in the nation) on 46.6% shooting from inside the arc (47th) and 33.6% from downtown (176th). They led Big Ten I steals per game with 7.7. On the other side of the ball, the Wildcats tally 109.6 points per 100 possessions (100th) on 46.8% shooting from inside the arc (323rd) and 32.2% from beyond the 3-point line (288th). Northwestern is No. 38 in the KenPom rankings and No. 41 in the NCAA NET Rankings.

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UCLA trounced UNC Ashville in the first round

The No. 2 UCLA Bruins (30-5; 20-13-2 ATS) had an easy job last Thursday. They dismantled the No. 15 UNC Asheville Bulldogs 86-53 as 17-point favorites. The Bruins shot 54.0% from the field (5-for-16 from deep), outrebounded the Bulldogs 40-25, and posted an excellent 24/8 assist-to-turnover ratio. 

Senior guard Jaime Jaquez and freshman guard Amari Bailey led the way for UCLA in the first round, accounting for 17 points apiece. Jaquez also had eight rebounds and five steals, while senior PG Tyger Campbell added seven points and ten assists. Campbell is tallying 13.4 points and 4.9 assists per contest in 2022-23, and Jaquez is posting 17.3 points and 8.1 rebounds a night. 

UCLA won the Pac-12 Conference regular-season title but suffered a tough 61-59 defeat to Arizona in the conference tournament final to stop its 12-game winning streak. The Bruins are No. 3 in the NCAA NET Rankings, sporting an 8-5 record in Quadrant 1 and a 9-0 record in Quadrant 2. During the non-conference schedule, UCLA has beaten then-No. 13 Kentucky 63-53 and No. 20 Maryland 87-60 while losing to No. 5 Baylor 80-75 and No. 19 Illinois 79-70. 

KenPom has UCLA at No. 2. The Bruins score 115.3 points per 100 possessions (21st in the nation) on 50.7% shooting from inside the arc (186th) and 34.6% from downtown (161st). They allow 87.2 points in return (1st) on 31.1% shooting from beyond the arc (40th) and 46.7% from inside it (49th).

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Full-Game Side Bet

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UCLA misses junior guard Jayden Clark (13.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 2.6 SPG), while freshman forward Adem Bona (7.8 PPG, 5.4 RPG) is questionable to play. The Bruins are still listed as firm favorites, and I think they won’t get past Northwestern with ease. UCLA will win on the back of its defense, but Northwestern’s D is good enough to keep this game close down the stretch. 

The Wildcats’ only chance to beat UCLA is to play aggressive, physical defense. Their offense is far away from an elite level, though both Boo Buie and Chase Audige can score on their own. At least, Northwestern takes good care of the ball (12th in the nation in turnover percentage, 14.7%), and that could be crucial against the Bruins, who rank 11th in defensive turnover percentage (23.6%).  

Northwestern is 7-1 ATS in its last eight outings as an underdog. On the flip side, UCLA is 5-0 ATS in its previous five showings as a favorite. The Bruins are not a great shooting team and could struggle to score in this matchup, so give me Northwestern plus the points. 

Prediction: Northwestern Wildcats +7.5 (-110)

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Full-Game Total Pick

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The line has been set pretty low, but the under still looks like a way to go. As I’ve mentioned, Northwestern leans on its defense, while UCLA boasts the best defensive rating in the country. Furthermore, we should see a down-tempo contest. The Bruins record 66.2 possessions per 40 minutes (235th), and the Wildcats tally just 64.7 possessions per 40 minutes (309th). 

UCLA has scored 75 or more points in five straight games when listed as a fave. But Northwestern has held its opponents below a 70-point mark in 11 of its previous 12 contests overall, and nine of those 12 tilts have gone under the total.

Prediction: Go under 127.0 points (-110)

Written By Admir Aljic , "The Admiral"

You want someone to show you how to make some money, then talk to the Admiral, because he is your man. He has been handicapping for many years, so heal knows a thing or two on how to beat the spread and get your pockets loaded with cash. He has lined his own pockets for years as a betting expert. The Admiral has brought his talents to StatSalt & Winners & Whiners and will always find the best pick for you.