UCLA might be a good value bet before the tournament

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UCLA played Thursday night. They beat an Arizona State team, which was coming off a win at Arizona, and beat the Sun Devils by 18.

You probably didn’t know that, because it’s easy to miss UCLA in the situation. The Bruins play late games on the West Coast. The Pac-12 is not good this season. Maybe that’s why UCLA flies under the radar just a little bit.

UCLA is 10-to-1 to win the NCAA championship at BetMGM. That’s probably the best value on the board. UCLA might be the best team not getting enough attention in early March.

UCLA has had a solid season

UCLA has been really good for three straight seasons. In 2021, they lost in the Final Four to Gonzaga’s buzzer-beater in an absolutely legendary NCAA championship game. Last season the Bruins were good but injuries and a hot North Carolina team ended their championship run early.

This team is probably the best of the three.

UCLA is 26-4. They’ve had two odd setbacks – a two-game losing streak in November to Illinois and Baylor, and another in January at Arizona and USC. Since that loss to USC they have won nine in a row.

Positive ratings love the Bruins. They are KenPom’s No. 2, No. 2 at Haslametrics and No. 4 in Bart Torvik’s T-Rank. UCLA is at No. 4 in the NCAA’s NET rankings as well. That’s driven by an elite defense and a very good offense. UCLA is currently outside of the No. 1 seed in a false bracket but that could change if UCLA ends up with a home win against Arizona (the Bruins should be favored to win) and if it takes Pac-12 championship.

It’s a resume that looks like a title contender, and the odds aren’t that bad yet.

UCLA guard Jaime Jaquez Jr.  leads a strong Bruins team.  (AP Photo/Ringo HW Chiu)
UCLA guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. leads a strong Bruins team. (AP Photo/Ringo HW Chiu)

Bruins are a contender

Houston is the favorite to win it all at +600. Kansas and Alabama are next at +800 (I previously said Alabama was in line for a title pick, but the Brandon Miller situation happened and they haven’t covered since). UCLA is in a group at +1000 after that.

UCLA has everything you want. Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Tyger Campbell are senior directors. Jaquez is an All-American candidate. They don’t convert it. They are back well. The only issue that may show up in March is that they don’t shoot well from behind the 3-point line, but every team has some flaws in the field. UCLA has less than most.

The field seems pretty wide open about two weeks before the NCAA tournament ends. There are good betting odds if you can identify the right champion. If UCLA beats Arizona on Saturday and wins the Pac-12 championship, the Bruins will likely get the No. 1 seed and those +1000 numbers will get shorter.

UCLA doesn’t get a ton of attention yet. That could change soon.

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