- #13 Akron kicks off their March Madness journey on Thursday against #4 UCLA
- The Bruins are a heavy 13.5-point favorite in this Round of 64 matchup
- Find the odds, lines, preview, and betting prediction below
March Madness officially begins on Thursday and, at 9:10 PM ET at the Moda Center in Portland, the #13 Akron Zippers (24-9) face the always-dangerous #3 UCLA Bruins (25-7). This will be the first-ever meeting between the two teams.
Akron comes into the Big Dance on an eight-game winning streak after taking down Kent State in the Mid-American Tournament final on Saturday. The Bruins meanwhile are fresh off a loss in the Pac 12 title game to the Arizona Wildcats, but they’re still 8-2 in their last 10 contests.
Akron vs UCLA Odds
|Akron||+13.5 (-110)||+750||Ov 128.5 (-108)|
|UCLA||-13.5 (-110)||-1250||Un 128.5 (-110)|
Akron a Huge Underdog
The Zippers started off the season in disappointing fashion, but they quickly turned things around and finished on a high note. While their competition hasn’t always been the most fierce, Akron is absolutely rolling right now, scoring at least 70 points in six of their last seven outings. Their victory on Saturday over Kent State was easy pickings, winning 75-55.
Enrique Freeman showed out for a team-high 23 points as the Zipper shot an impressive 52% from the field and 53% from three-point land. John Groce’s team is high on confidence and will be looking for their first NCAA Tournament win in four previous appearances in the Big Dance. They certainly have the right man leading them as well, with Groce coaching that same Ohio Bobcats squad who upset Michigan in the first round in 2012 and made a Cinderella run all the way to the Sweet 16.
RELEASE – https://t.co/lFQrOaaCS5
🏀| vs UCLA
🗓 | March 17
⏰ | 9:50 pm EDT
🏟️ | Moda Center | Portland, Ore.
📺 TBS pic.twitter.com/zzyFHrGACk
— Akron Zips MBB (@ZipsMBB) March 14, 2022
That being said, Groce knows what it takes to succeed on the big stage and this group will be having the utmost belief another heroic run could be in the cards. Plus, Akron already went toe to toe with Ohio State in the first game of the 2021/22 campaign, losing a 67-66 nailbiter. With a nicely balanced offense that has four players averaging double-digits in points, anything is possible for the Zippers.
Bruins Poised For Another Final Four Run
UCLA was easily one of the best teams in the nation this season after making it all the way to the Final Four in 2020/21, losing to Gonzaga on a game-winning buzzer-beater from Jalen Suggs. The Bruins rank 26th in offensive rating and 41st in defensive rating while taking tremendous care of the basketball, committing only 9.2 turnovers per night. That’s ninth in the NCAA.
The Bruins (25-7), seeded No. 4 in the East Region, will make their 51st all-time NCAA Tournament appearance this week, facing No. 13-seed Akron (24-9) on Thursday night in Portland.
— UCLA Men’s Basketball (@UCLAMBB) March 15, 2022
Mick Cronin’s squad had a clear chance to take home the Pac 12 title on Saturday, going into halftime with a 40-35 lead. However, they completely collapsed in the final 20 minutes, getting outscored 49-36. Four of their five starters finished in double-figures, but the defense dropped the ball and couldn’t contain a very good Arizona team.
Nevertheless, UCLA has been hot. Jaime Jaquez and Johnny Juzang were key cogs for the Bruins in last year’s tournament, with the latter averaging over 22 points per game in their six-game run. Juzang is top-20 in Wooden Award Odds as well. Cronin will be looking to this duo to really set the tone on both ends on Thursday. UCLA is also scoring the rock at a high level lately, hitting over 75 points in five of their previous six games.
Akron vs UCLA Prediction
The spread is extremely wide here and Akron barely loses by double-digits. This is a gritty team that is going to be very motivated to put up a serious fight against UCLA after their recent surge. The Zippers are a good bet ATS. Also, both teams are thriving offensively in recent memory. The over should hold value.
Pick: Akron ATS +13.5 (-110), Over 128.5 (-110)
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