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Alabama vs. UCLA picks & predictions for March Madness Sweet 16 game

By Bill Bender

Can the Bruins keep a Cinderella run going?

No. 11 UCLA — an atypical bracket buster — will continue its run from the play-in game with a Sweet 16 matchup against No. 2 Alabama in an East Region semifinal. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. ET on Sunday at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The game will be televised on TBS.

UCLA (20-9) made its last Sweet 16 appearance in 2017. Second-year coach Mick Cronin has the Bruins hot at the right time, and they are one of four Pac-12 teams playing in the second weekend.

Alabama (26-6) is on an eight-game win streak that started before the SEC tournament. The Crimson Tide are looking for their first Elite Eight appearance since 2004, and second-year coach Nate Oats guided Alabama to a pair of double-digit victories in the first two rounds.

Alabama key players

Senior forward Herb Jones is the Crimson Tide's leader. He averages 11.3 ppg. and 6.5 rpg. Alabama has three guards who average double-digit points in Jaden Shackelford (14.3), John Petty (12.5) and Jahvon Quinerly (12.7). The Crimson Tide have eight players who average at least five points per game.

UCLA key players

Guards Johnny Juzang and Jaime Jaquez have carried the scoring load for the Bruins through the tournament. Juzang was the Bruins' leading scorer in the regular season, and he averages 22.3 points per game in the tournament. Jaquez averages 16.7 in the tournament, and that combination has kept UCLA rolling. Jules Bernard (10.4), Tyger Campbell (10.1) and Cody Riley (10.0) also average double figures.

Best individual matchup: Herb Jones vs. Cody Riley

Jones impacts the game beyond his scoring. He has at least six rebounds in every game through Alabama's winning streak, but he will need to be more involved in the offense after taking just four shots in the second-round victory against Maryland. Riley plays the same role, and he had double-digit rebounds in big games against San Diego State, Arizona State and Oregon State this season. He pulled down 12 boards in the second round against Abilene Christian.

Alabama vs. UCLA stat to know

Both teams have shot the ball well from 3-point range in the tournament. UCLA is 24 of 56 (42.9 percent) in three games. Alabama is 21 of 47 (44.7%) in two games. Both teams also have defended the 3-point line well. The Crimson Tide's opponents are 15 of 50 (30 percent) in those two games, and the Bruins' opponents are 13 of 51 (25.5 percent).

Get to know … Jahvon Quinerly

Quinerly, a Villanova transfer, leads Alabama at 44.2 percent from 3-point range. He has emerged as a consistent scorer for the Crimson Tide with 14 consecutive games with 10 points or more. The 6-1 guard also dished out 11 assists in the second-round victory against Maryland. In a game that features solid guard play on both sides, Quinerly could be the difference maker.

Alabama vs. UCLA prediction

UCLA poses an interesting challenge for Alabama, especially if Juzang and Jaquez stay hot. The Crimson Tide still match up well on the perimeter, however, and Jones will look for his shot a little more in this matchup. The Bruins can steal this game if they stay hot from 3-point range, but we still like the Crimson Tide to pull through to the Elite Eight.

Final score: Alabama 74, UCLA 67


Alabama vs. UCLA odds

  • Spread: Alabama –6.5

  • Over/under: 145.5

  • Moneyline: Alabama –260, UCLA +215

Three betting trends to watch

— Alabama is 4-6-1 ATS against nonconference opponents this season, but they have covered single-digit spreads in four of their last five games.

— The Crimson Tide is 5-3 ATS through its eight-game win streak.

— UCLA is 4-3 ATS as an underdog, but they are 3-4 S//U in those games.

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