T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, hosts the 2023 NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen West Region participants in their quest for their “One Shining Moment.
No. 8 seed Arkansas Razorbacks opens Thursday’s action with a matchup against No. 4 seed UConn Huskies, followed by No. 3 seed Gonzaga Bulldogs meeting No. 2 seed UCLA Bruins.
Betting AZ sports betting analyst Phil Naessens previews both Thursday night contests and has a terrific Betfred promotion for Arizona sports bettors to enjoy.
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Arkansas Razorbacks vs. UConn Huskies
The Razorbacks are a +3.5 underdog with a 139.5 total when they face the Huskies for the right to play the winner of the Gonzaga-UCLA matchup.
Arkansas has won three of their last four and is coming off a huge upset over No. 1 seed Kansas. That was a big win for a Razorbacks team that struggled through a mid-season four-game losing streak and a season-ending three-game winless skid.
The Razorbacks led the SEC in blocked shots but posted pedestrian offensive and defensive numbers. Arkansas is a solid yet unspectacular team that gets to the charity stripe with an above-average effective field goal percentage. The defense is where the Razorbacks make their money, but they commit too many fouls, and that might not be ideal Thursday.
— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) March 19, 2023
UConn has had an easy path to the Sweet 16–they’ve won both contests comfortably and are a team that does the little things well–they rebound, pass the ball, don’t commit silly turnovers, and knock down their free throws. The Huskies went through a mid-season stretch where they lost six of eight but won eight of their last nine.
Buckets on buckets 🪣 pic.twitter.com/u63O4X8msW
— FOX College Hoops (@CBBonFOX) March 20, 2023
The Huskies allowed the 39th fewest points per game, and topped the Big East in opponent three-point percentage and blocked shots. UConn can also score the basketball and led the Big East in offensive rebound rate. The Huskies boast the 3rd most efficient offense in their conference–Adama Sanoga leads the team in scoring and caroms–the big fella has had a pair of monster games in this tournament and will be a handful to stop.
Phil’s Best Bet–UConn -3.5 -110
Arkansas has the size to match UConn, but they can’t shoot threes, and a lower seed is going to have difficulties defeating a higher seed without draining some big bombs–the Razorbacks aren’t scaring anyone from downtown and shooting 31% from beyond the arc isn’t going to cover the spread either.
Sanoga has been a one-man wrecking crew on both ends of the floor—he posted consecutive double-doubles against Iona and Marquette and nearly posted a massive 28-point double-double against Saint Mary’s. Look for this one to remain close throughout the tilt, with UConn covering for us at the charity stripe. Phil’s Best Bet–UConn -3.5 -110
Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. UCLA Bruins
Gonzaga is a +2 underdog with a 145.5 total when they face UCLA for a shot at Sunday’s Elite Eight.
The Bulldogs are the top-scoring team in the country–they play a fast-paced offense and drain a high percentage of their shot attempts from inside and outside the arc. The Zags have the longest active winning streak in the college game but have failed to cover the spread in three of their past five games.
Gonzaga led the WAC conference in nearly every offensive category–the Bulldogs are good at getting to the charity stripe but not so good at making their freebies. The Zags’ defense was above average in the conference, but their defense is mediocre–Gonzaga doesn’t defend well inside or outside the arc.
The Bruins allow the 6th-fewest points in the college game. UCLA led the Pac-12 in nearly every defensive metric, played stifling defense, and allowed 116 points over their first two West Region games. The Bruins are 4-1-1 ATS over their past five–David Singleton is their best three-point shooter but is listed as questionable for Thursday.
UCLA has an above-average offense–they led the conference in offensive rebound percentage but is an average shooting team everywhere on the court. The Bruins do a nice job taking care of the ball, rarely beat themselves, and let their defense do the talking.
Phil’s Best Bet: UCLA -2 -110
We have a pair of offensive studs playing in this one—Gonzaga forward Drew Timme against UCLA guard Jaime Jaquez Jr are the respective teams’ go-to guys. While they might cancel each other out in the boxscore, Vasquez is surrounded by better teammates, which will be the difference in this contest.
The Bruins play a stifling defense and will go after Timme–the Zags All-American doesn’t have the supporting cast to bail him out as they do in their conference. UCLA won’t mind if this game goes down to the wire–the Zags don’t make their free throws, UCLA does make more of their charity stripe attempts, and they will cover the -2 against Gonzaga. Phil’s Best Bet: UCLA -2 -110