It's shaping up to be one for the ages when UCLA and Kentucky square off Friday night in Memphis. This is by far the marquee matchup of the Sweet 16 with two of the hottest teams in the past 2-3 weeks. You'd think the game would be a toss-up, and in fact, it did open as a PK, but 59% of the public wagers have driven UCLA up to -1 favorites.
It's hard to believe that neither of these teams are even the top seed in the South Region. The winner has to do it all over again Sunday against the North Carolina / Butler winner...but first thing's first.
Believe it or not, this isn't the first meeting of the year between the Pac-10 and SEC representatives. UCLA visited Rupp Arena on December 3rd as 11 point underdogs but ended up snagging a 5-point outright victory 97-92. That game soared over the total and oddsmakers are expecting another high scoring affair in the Sweet 16 posting the number at 165.
UCLA is on a roll winning 12 of 13 games with the sole defeat coming to Arizona in the Pac-12 Tournament. They rattled off 9 straight wins to end the regular season and have compiled a 31-4 record overall.
Kentucky is somewhat overlooked in this entire tournament despite the fact that they've been victorious in 13 straight games. They themselves are 31-5 in 2016/17 but it's still only enough to capture 41% of the public wagering despite being 1 point underdogs.
Bruins-Wildcats Sweet 16 Pick
The over 165 could be a strong play as UCLA hasn't scored less than 75 points in a game since 11/27 and has the #1 offense in the nation at 90.2 PPG. Kentucky has a top 10 offense of their own tallying 85.2 PPG (9th). Still, it's hard to predict if a tense March matchup can any way replicate the fast pace, carefree style the teams played within their game in December.
UCLA has definitely looked better so far in the tournament. They notched a 17-point opening round victory and advanced to the Sweet 16 with an impressive 79-67 win over a quality Cincinnati squad. Kentucky only escaped Northern Kentucky 79-70 in the round of 64 and squeaked out a 65-62 win over Wichita State to set up this tilt.
An interesting point of note is that the game is being played in Memphis, TN – a six-hour drive from Lexington. It is going to be a noticeably pro-Kentucky crowd and even though all the numbers are saying UCLA, it's the location variable that should push the Wildcats to the win. Kentucky is the pick.