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The UCLA Bruins take on the North Carolina Tar Heels tonight in the Sweet 16. Can UCLA get to the Elite 8 or can North Carolina pull off another upset? Ben Rajavuori takes you through the game and shares his pick.

UCLA vs North Carolina Prediction: Will UCLA Get to the Elite 8?

The second day of the Sweet Sixteen is underway, and the second matchup on CBS tonight will be the UCLA Bruins facing off against the North Carolina Tar heels at 9:40 PM Eastern. UCLA comes into this one fresh off an impressive 72-56 win over Saint Mary's. North Carolina is coming off an even more impressive win over one-seed Baylor that needed overtime to decide the winner. North Carolina is catching two points in this one. Will UCLA take care of business again, or can UNC pull off the upset?

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UCLA vs North Carolina Prediction

UCLA is one of the most balanced teams in the country. They are top 15 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, they are fifth in turnover percentage, crash the boards well, and make their free throws. There's not much that the Bruins don't cover. This isn't surprising for them, though. UCLA was ranked second in the preseason Associated Press poll behind only Gonzaga.

UCLA Features a prolific offense that excels in the mid-to-long range. UCLA is eleventh in the nation at hitting mid-range jumpers (43%). This matches up nicely against a shaky defensive team like the Tar Heels. Sure, the Tar Heels are 43rd in defensive efficiency, but they played in a suspect ACC this year, and it reflects in the fact they are 279th in points allowed per game. The further UNC defends from the rim, the more trouble they have, and UCLA thrives on not needing to score in the paint to win games.

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The biggest question mark for the Bruins is the status of junior Jaime Jaquez. Jaquez suffered an ankle injury in the win over St. Mary's, but his status is probable as of early this morning. He will probably play, even if it's limited, but the great thing about this team is that they are deep and have multiple other scoring options if he is not one-hundred percent.

Experience also favors the Bruins in this spot. I love the Bruins to go far in this tournament because this same starting five made the Final Four last year and lost in overtime to Gonzaga (who had multiple players leave for the NBA after the season). They added Myles Johnson from Rutgers in the offseason, but otherwise, this is a mirror image of the Final Four team from last year.

They know what it takes to get there, and UNC does not have the same experience on their side. Only one player on the roster has even made the Sweet Sixteen (Leaky Black), and no one else has made it past the second round. This sounds like nitpicking, but this experience is essential when you consider the nerves and mental side of this matchup. UCLA was there just last year, and none of the UNC players have, including even the coach.

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I simply love UCLA in this year's tournament. I'm not even a fan; I just love their playstyle, coaching, and their balanced game. They are winning it all in two of my three brackets, and I tweeted a future on them to make the final four at +450 odds. They have all the components I listed in the second paragraph and have a massive experience advantage. UCLA is also 7-1 against the spread in their last eight tournament games. Mick Cronin knows how to coach winning teams. North Carolina's Hubert Davis is a first-year coach, and while he's done a fantastic job in his first year, I think the Bruins have the coaching advantage here. All signs point to UCLA in this matchup. UNC has been hot and has momentum, but I believe the ride ends for them here.

UCLA vs North Carolina Pick

Pick: UCLA -2 (-110) (Bet $102 to Win $100)

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Article Author

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Ben Rajavuori is a handicapper out of Minneapolis, MN. He has been creating sports content for almost four years now and is an expert in all things NFL, MLB, NBA, UFC, and NCAAB. Ben thrives on diving deep into statistics to find the best angle on every bet. You can follow him on Twitter @WeBeatTheSpread.

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