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The first round of the NCAA tournament kicks off tomorrow, and the night's last game features the No. 2 seed UCLA Bruins (29-5) facing off against the No. 15 seed UNC Asheville Bulldogs (27-7). Ben Rajavuori gives his best March Madness bet for Thursday.

March Madness Bets for Thursday: Best Bets for UCLA vs. UNC Asheville in the Round of 64

The first round of the March Madness tournament starts tomorrow, and the night's last game features the No. 2 seed UCLA Bruins (29-5) facing off against the No. 15 seed UNC Asheville Bulldogs (27-7) in Sacramento. The Bruins have high hopes of cutting down the nets in the 2023 NCAA Tournament, having found success in the past, including reaching the Final Four as a No. 11 seed in the 2020-2021 tournament. This time, they enter as a sizable March Madness odds favorite and one of the best teams in the country after dominating the Pac-12.

UCLA vs. UNC Asheville Start Time and Where to Watch

  • Date: March 16, 2023
  • Game Time: 10:05 pm ET
  • Where to Watch: TruTV

UCLA vs. UNC Asheville Odds

  • Spread: UNC Asheville +18 (-110), UCLA -18 (-110)
  • Total Odds: O/U 135.5 (-110)
  • Moneyline Odds: UNC Asheville (+1400), UCLA (-2000)

Click Here for UCLA vs. UNC Asheville Odds

March Madness Bets for Thursday

UCLA has been among the best teams in the country all season, consistently throttling Pac-12 opponents with an elite defense that has allowed just 60.3 points per game on average. Despite missing Jaylen Clark, one of their best defenders, due to injury, I still expect UCLA to roll, as they have the best defensive efficiency in the country, according to KenPom. On the offensive end, the team is led by two experienced seniors, Tyger Campbell, and Jaime Jaquez. With their impressive defensive record and potent offense, they are expected to pose a significant challenge to UNC Asheville.

UNC Asheville, led by coach Mike Morrell, is an improved team since he took over five years ago. They had a 4-27 record in the 2018-19 season. Since then, the Bulldogs have incrementally improved, reaching their first winning season under him last year. They have had a breakthrough this year, winning 10 more games than the previous season.

Asheville is ranked 146th overall in KenPom, 195th in offensive efficiency, and 115th in defensive efficiency. While the Bulldogs knock down threes at an elite rate of 39%, they rarely let it fly, ranking 186th in the percentage of shots taken from 3-point range at 37.4%. Their offense, while good, is not elite enough to keep pace with a team like UCLA, especially since they rank 298th in turnover percentage on offense.

One area of Asheville's resume that stands out is that they rank first in KenPom's luck metric. The Bulldogs have limited opponents to 29.7% from three, yet rank 74th in 3-point field goal percentage allowed against the average opponent, so some regression is due there.

UNC Asheville's schedule has not been as tough as that of UCLA's. The two best teams that Asheville played this season were Dayton and Arkansas. The Bulldogs were blown out by both, losing 23 points to the Flyers and 34 to the Razorbacks. On the other side, UCLA played seven non-power five teams this season and won all seven games by at least 20 points. The Bruins are undefeated outside of quad-one games this season.

Despite injury concerns, UCLA is still considered a formidable opponent. Pac-12 Defensive Jaylen Clark is out with an Achilles injury suffered in the regular-season finale. At the same time, big man Adem Bona is questionable after leaving the Pac-12 tournament semifinals with a shoulder injury. However, the Bruins have plenty of players ready to step up in their absence. Freshman Amari Bailey is a dangerous offensive weapon who has thrived with more playing time, while fifth-year wing David Singleton is a deadly sharpshooter and potent defender. While losing Bona would be a blow to UCLA's frontcourt, the team still has capable role players to fill the void in Mac Etienne and Kenneth Nwuba.

At the end of the day, even a slightly banged-up team is miles ahead of UNC Asheville, and if there was a two-seed who would beat a 15 this season, it is not UNC Asheville. They are quite literally mismatched in every aspect on the court in this game, and their turnover issues will not help their cause. I expect UCLA to force at least 20 turnovers and win this game by at least that many points.

March Madness Bet: UCLA vs. UNC Asheville

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Article Author


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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