Saturday March Madness Bets: Back Underdog Saint Mary’s vs. UCLA?

Written By Eli Hershkovich on March 18, 2022 - Last Updated on March 21, 2022
March Madness Bets

After a wild first day of the NCAA tournament, including Saint Peter’s upset win over Kentucky, there are already odds to dive into for Saturday’s Round of 32 schedule. Let’s discuss my March Madness bets for UCLA against Saint Mary’s.

Click on the odds below to place a bet, and continue the discussion in our Discord betting chat, as we dive into all of the games in the big dance. Stay up-to-date on the top-68 programs with my March Madness power rankings.

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Round of 32: UCLA Bruins vs. Saint Mary’s Gaels

On Thursday, Saint Mary’s blew out Indiana — in an awful travel spot for the Hoosiers after playing in the First Four play-in game less than 48 hours before. Meanwhile, UCLA won a tightly-contested affair against Akron in the Round 64. Shouldn’t the Gaels be overvalued as a result?

From a numbers standpoint, I make Mick Cronin’s team a 1.5-point favorite, meaning there’s value with the WCC’s second-best team.

Trust Gaels’ Ball-Screen Offense

Saint Mary’s ⁠— the No. 5 seed in the East Region ⁠— runs pick-and-roll action at the 34th-most frequent rate in the country (via ShotQuality). Although No. 4 seed UCLA is predicated around limiting dribble penetration at that end of the floor, it’s more reliable against isolation-driven sets. Continuity ball-screen offenses have the most success, along with motion-oriented attacks.

Plus, Randy Bennett’s crew operates at the 21-slowest adjusted pace across Division I. The Zips’ methodical tempo worked in their favor, keeping their matchup a low-possession contest, despite falling behind in the final minutes. The Gaels can match that game plan and showcase an even more efficient offensive performance to pay it off.

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Bruins’ Offense In Trouble

Similar to UCLA, Saint Mary’s defensive setup forces opponents to deliver isolation scoring, as it’s surrendering the lowest assist rate in the nation.

But Johnny Juzang and his teammates’ shot selection is unreliable because of their poor floor-spacing. Unless the Bruins hit an absurd amount of of mid-range shots like last March, the Gaels boast the defensive edge.

Saint Mary’s also owns the size to control the glass while limiting the Bruins’ second-chance looks. In fact, it’s accruing the third-highest defensive rebounding rate across college basketball.

UCLA – Saint Mary’s Conclusion

Let’s back the Gaels to at least hang within a possession ⁠— if not win outright. Bennett’s bunch possesses the tools to come out of this region, especially after Kentucky was knocked out. Find its NCAA tournament futures odds here.

Best Available Line: Saint Mary’s
Eli’s March Madness Bets: Saint Mary’s +3.5 (-110)

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Written by
Eli Hershkovich

Eli Hershkovich is a lead sports betting writer with TheLines and Catena Media, formerly with Audacy and The Action Network. His goal is to provide you with data and information to lead you to winning bets. Eli is an avid college basketball gambler — among many other sports — and still hasn't forgiven Virginia for ruining his 2018-2019 Texas Tech futures.

View all posts by Eli Hershkovich