No college basketball team has participated in March Madness more than Kentucky, and UCLA has won the NCAA Tournament more than anyone in history. The two storied programs will go head-to-head Friday night in the Sweet 16 in what might be the most entertaining matchup on the upcoming schedule.
Making a prediction for this game might be harder than picking any other Sweet 16 matchup. Kentucky was ranked higher by the selection committee as the No.2 seed in the South region, but they are one-point underdogs against the No.3 Bruins, according to the latest Las Vegas betting odds. They have the same national championship odds, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see either team reach the Final Four.
Kentucky is the youngest team in the NCAA Tournament, led by two potential lottery picks in the 2017 NBA Draft. UCLA could also have two freshmen taken near the top of the first round, and their star point guard might ultimately be the difference.
Lonzo Ball looks like he’ll be the No.2 overall pick in June’s draft, and he’s the driving force behind the best offense in college basketball. After beating Cincinnati 79-67 in the second round of the tournament, the Bruins rank first in offensive efficiency, scoring at least 75 points in 34 of 35 games. Ball totaled 18 points and nine assists, holding his spot as the nation’s assist leader.
UCLA’s offense was tested against the No.6 Bearcats, who rank 10th overall in defensive efficiency. After a slow start, the Bruins exploded for 49 second-half points with all five starters finishing in double figures.
Lonzo Ball could be the difference in UCLA's game against Kentucky in the Sweet 16 of March Madness 2017. Pictured: Lonzo Ball drives to the basket as Kyle Washington defends at Golden 1 Center on March 19, 2017 in Sacramento, California. Photo: Getty Images
Kentucky doesn’t score at the same pace as UCLA, though they are 16th in offensive efficiency and are among the game’s best offensive teams when they get in transition. The Wildcats are 19th in points allowed per possession, but they might suffer the same fate as Cincinnati in terms of trying to slow the Bruins down.
That’s what happened when the two teams met earlier this season. Playing at Rupp Arena on Dec. 3, UCLA became the first road team in 43 tries to defeat Kentucky on their home court. The Wildcats lost 97-92, allowing the Bruins to shoot 53 percent from the field and make 10 of their 23 attempts from beyond the arc. UCLA leading-scorer TJ Leaf had 17 points, five rebounds and five assists.
Kentucky’s offense certainly wasn’t the issue in their first loss of the season, and they won’t have trouble putting up points Friday in Memphis. SEC Player of the Year Malik Monk scored 24 points and point guard De’Aaron Fox added 20 points and nine assists in the loss. Friday’s game total of 168 is the highest in the entire Sweet 16.
The Wildcats grinded out a hard fought victory over No.10 Wichita State in the Round of 32, winning maybe the best game of the tournament’s first weekend. Monk struggled from the field, making just three of his 10 shot attempts, and he’s just six-of-21 in tourney play.
UCLA has just one loss in their last 11 games, and Kentucky enters the Sweet 16 on a 13-game winning streak. It should be a contest that comes down to the wire, but the Bruins’ offense might be just a little too good for the Wildcats to keep them out of the Elite Eight.
Prediction: UCLA over Kentucky, 90-86
Source : http://www.ibtimes.com/kentucky-vs-ucla-2017-prediction-betting-odds-preview-march-madness-2017-sweet-16-2511737