UCLA beat Michigan State in overtime Thursday night, meaning BYU will face off versus the Bruins Saturday night. UCLA was down by 11 at halftime but closed strong late to force overtime. Three UCLA players played more than 34 minutes, including two players who played more than 42 minutes.
One thing to watch is the health of UCLA’s leading scorer Johnny Juzang. He rolled his ankle late and had to be helped off the court. He was celebrating with his teammates on the court at the end, so the ankle doesn’t seem to be as bad as it looked initially. Ankles can swell the next day, so his health will be worth monitoring.
UCLA finished the season 17-9 and 4th place in the Pac 12. They ended the year on a 4-game losing streak before the Michigan State win, which is why they found themselves as one of the last 4 at-large teams in.
UCLA is one of the slowest offensive teams in the country, ranking 307 in average possession length. Although slow, they are very efficient. They don’t turn the ball over a ton (62nd nationally in turnover percentage) and are 84th nationally in effective field goal percentage. They don’t have a much interior size but they rebound the ball well on both ends.
UCLA is very balanced, with 5 guys averaging double figures. Their guards are their top 4 scorers, led by 6-foot-6 sophomore Johnny Juzang at 14 ppg. They start one big that is 6-foot-9 and 4 guards, so they won’t overwhelm BYU with their size.
Defense is where they are most vulnerable. They don’t have any real rim protectors, so BYU could do some damage inside with Haarms and Harward. The Bruins also don’t force many turnovers and teams shoot well against them — their 3PT defense is 242 nationally and their 2pt defense is 156 nationally.
KenPom gives BYU a 62% chance to win and predicts a 70-67 final score in favor of the Cougars. BYU beat UCLA 78-63 last season in the Maui Invitational.
UCLA’s guard line is their strength. They start three 6-foot-6 guards and one 5-foot-11 guard and they are all very capable. Alex Barcello or Brandon Averette will have to guard one of those big guards and will give up 5-6 inches. 5-foot-11 point guard Tyger Campbell is quick and averages 5.6 assists per game.
I like BYU to win this game due to their size, depth and UCLA’s defense. BYU should be able to win the rebound battle with Caleb Lohner and big guys Matt Haarms and Richard Harward down low. Haarms’ 7-foot-3 frame and Harward’s 6-foot-11 should be able to cause UCLA some problems down low, which will open up BYU’s shooters. BYU goes nine guys deep and can ware down the Bruins over the course of the game.
One of BYU’s weaknesses at times on offense this season is turnovers. UCLA is not a great defensive team,and they are 254th defensively in turnover percentage.
UCLA will be able to score and will slow the game down, but I like BYU by 5-7 points.
- Sat. March 20, 7:40 p.m. MT
- Hinkle Fieldhouse; Indianapolis, Indiana
TV Broadcast Team:
- Andrew Catalon (play-by-play)
- Steve Lappas (analyst)
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