In 2021, Jalen Suggs, who now plays for the Orlando Magic, banked in a shot from just about half court to give Gonzaga a Final Four win over UCLA at the buzzer. The Bruins will be looking for revenge, and that’s not something you can take lightly. There are quite a few players on this UCLA team who contributed to the Bruins’ Final Four run, with Tyger Campbell and Jaime Jaquez Jr. among them. Those two will want to go out and beat the Zags team that ended their season, but it’s a little hard to ignore how banged up UCLA is right now.
Not only did Mick Cronin’s team lose Jaylen Clark — one of the team’s best two-way players and the Pac-12 defensive player of the year — before the tournament, but David Singleton sustained an ankle sprain in the Bruins’ second-round win over Northwestern. It seems likely that Singleton will play, but the Bruins need him to be himself in order to win. Singleton is a team leader and was part of the Bruins team that lost to Gonzaga in the Final Four.
The Bruins finished the regular season 21st in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency and second in adjusted defensive efficiency. Since Clark’s injury, however, the Bruins haven fallen to 13th in adjusted defensive efficiency. That’s not a massive drop, but it’s clear the Bruins aren’t the same with Clark out. Against a team that executes with Gonzaga’s precision offensively, a small dip in defensive performance could be the difference.
The Zags are first in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency, which isn’t all that surprising considering they still run their offense through superstar Drew Timme. He was a monster in Gonzaga’s win over Texas Christian, and he is poised to have a big game against UCLA. He is the best low-post player in the nation and reads the floor unbelievably well for a big man. Gonzaga also has reliable three-point shooters — the Zags rank ninth in three-point shooting percentage. Timme will spot those guys and get them good looks as much as possible.
If Gonzaga can show up defensively, it’s going to be difficult for UCLA to win. The Zags are 83rd in adjusted defensive efficiency, but teams tend to play better defense when their seasons are at stake. And Gonzaga coach Mark Few knows this UCLA team well — the teams have played three times in the last three years.
How to watch UCLA vs. Gonzaga
When: Thursday, 6:45 PT
Where: Las Vegas
TV / Streaming: CBS; Marchmadness.com; Paramount+
Latest betting odds for UCLA vs. Gonzaga
Spread: UCLA -1.5