UCLA Bruins vs Michigan State Spartans – NCAAM March 18

NCAA Tournament – First Four

Michigan State (15-12, 9-11)  vs. UCLA (17-9, 13-6)

  • Time: 6:57 PST – 8:57 CST – 9:57 EST
  • Place: Mackey Arena – Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind.
  • TV: TBS

Opening Tip:

Michigan State has won five out of it’s last eight games including home wins over No. 5 Illinois, No. 4 Ohio State and No. 2 Michigan – all in East Lansing. They lost their Big Ten Tournament opener to Maryland, 68-57.

UCLA finished the season on a four-game losing streak as Oregon State knocked off the Bruins  83-79 in the opening round of the Pac-12 Tournament. Much of the Bruins’ problems have come from the injury of leading scorer Chris Smith back in December and role player Jalen Hill later.

The Bruins lead Michigan State, 6-4, in the all-time series, but Sparty won the last meeting in the 2019 Maui Classic, 75-62.

Michigan State makes it’s 23rd straight appearance and this is the Bruins’ 50th NCAA Tournament appearance and it is their first since 2018.

Vs. The Spread

Michigan State:

  • The Spartans are 7-13 ATS in their last 20 games
  • The UNDER has been the play in the last 6 MSU games
  • The UNDER has been the play in 11 of the last 13 games when the Spartans have taken on Pac-12

UCLA:

  • The Bruins are 3-11 ATS in their last 14 games
  • The total has gone OVER in 4 of the Bruins’ last 6 games
  • UCLA is 5-1 ATS in it’s last 6 vs. the Spartans

Last Time Out:

Michigan State dropped a 68-57 decision to Maryland in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament last Thursday. The Spartans had an early 12-point lead, but fell behind, 34-30 at halftime. Malik Hall had a career-high 19 points as Michigan State turned the ball over eight times and was outscored 27-2 off of turnovers.

A similar story unfolded in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament where UCLA had an early 16-point lead over Oregon State, but the Beavers got the game into overtime and the defense turned the Bruins back in the end. Jules Bernard led UCLA with 19 points.

Teams Spread Money Line Total Points
UCLA +2 (-110) +122 O 135½ (-105)
Michigan State -2 (-110) -142 U 135½ (-115)

Advantage, Michigan State:

Michigan State Spartans Logo
Michigan State is 33rd in the nation in defensive efficiency, but they only turn opponents over 10.8 times per game. The matchup of point guard Rocket Watts on UCLA’s Tyger Campbell will be interesting because Campbell is an all-Pac 12 first teamer who totaled 145 assists against 52 turnovers. Defending him and running different people at him on defense may be how Michigan State can control him. Using Aaron Henry or Josh Langford is not out of the question. Far me it from me to tell Tom Izzo how to defend! He’s a Hall of Famer and is defenses and strategies are legendary.

Key Spartans Stat:

Aaron Henry (15.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg) is the only Spartans who averages double figures as six players behind him average between 9.8 and 4.2 points. Michigan State has started 11 different players this season.  Rocket Watts showed explosive power in the Spartans win over Michigan as he netted 21 points. Michigan State is not an offensive machine by any means. The Spartans make only 32 percent of their shots from long distance and are 42.4 percent from the field.

X-Factor:

UCLA only gets 7.6 steals per 100 possessions and averages only 5.1 per game. Watts and Langford may be able to force the issue from the perimeter if they find out they can get a step on UCLA’s Campbell, Jules Bernard and Johnny Juzang.

Advantage, UCLA:

UCLA Bruins LogoJohnny Juzang (14.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg) is a tough cover and the Spartans will find this out early in the game. He didn’t play due to injury in the season finale vs. USC and is only 8-of-22 in his last two games with one three. That’s not exemplary of who he is. Jaime Jacquez (11.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg) will also cause the Spartans trouble with his athleticism as he and Juzang picked up the slack with Chris Smith out for the season.

Key Bruins Stat:

Opposite to Michigan State, the Bruins have six players averaging double digits, including Smith. Cody Riley (10.2 ppg, 54.5%) will be a solid matchup inside vs. Julius Marble and Malik Hall.

X-Factor:

The Bruins were third in the Pac-12 with only 11.1 turnover per game and they committed the fewest fouls in the league per night at 16. When the Spartans crank up their physical defense, the question is if the Bruins can play through this and execute as their offensive efficiency is 26th in the nation, per kenpom.com

Winner: Michigan State (-2) 69, UCLA 66

The Bets
Michigan State (-2)
-110
Michigan State Moneyline
-142
UNDER 135½
-115
Sub Categories:
Kenneth Cross / Author

Kenneth Cross is a new entry to The Sports Geek staff as he has 25 years of experience in print, broadcast, and internet sports journalism. Cross is a lover of all sports, but college basketball is his passion. He estimates that he has seen around 1,500 college basketball games - live and in-person - and hopes that grows this season. If you listen to Radio, you have likely heard him on Sundays covering the Carolina Panthers for some 20 years. Now in Tampa Bay, he works as a national radio correspondent.