Memphis Tigers vs. UCLA Bruins Preview and Pick

(1) Memphis Tigers (37-1), +1, o/u 134.5 vs. (1) UCLA Bruins (35-3), -1, o/u 134.5, Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas, 6:07 p.m. Eastern, Saturday
by Oracle of

There were some subdued rumblings when the brackets came out that this could be the very first time in NCAA history that the chalk would come out on top and all four No. 1 seeds would advance to the Final Four.

Those rumblings are subdued no more. They’re more like screams in the middle of the Grand Canyon, as the entire college basketball world can now hear the echo of an achievement that has never happened before.

It’ll be the Memphis Tigers and the UCLA Bruins to kick off the Final Four in San Antonio, Texas during Saturday evening in a game televised on CBS.

Both teams looked absolutely dominate in their Elite 8 match ups. It may have come to a surprise to many, too.

In fact, after Memphis beat Texas handily to advance to the Final Four, newscasters all over television were changing their picks (go figure) to Memphis over the Bruins. Everyone is jumping on the “we get no respect” bandwagon of the Tigers, and maybe rightfully so.

They beat Texas 85-67, shot 50% from the field and even more impressively 30-of-36 from the free throw line. They also held a potent Texas team to 36% shooting, out rebounded the Longhorns, have one of the best freshmen in the country on their squad and are arguably the most athletic team left in the tourney.

But let’s be realistic.

Memphis still shoots a porous 60% from the free-throw line on the year, something that is almost guaranteed to come back and haunt them playing a team like UCLA.

Also, playing in the Conference USA, the Tigers haven’t faced anyone like UCLA all year, as the Bruins can dictate the tempo of a game, which means the Tigers will have to play more half-court basketball something they aren’t accustomed to.

On top of that, this is the third straight year Ben Howland and his UCLA squad has been in the Final Four. There won’t be any “wow” factor for them and they know how to win tight ball games.

Add into the equation that the Bruins have a phenomenal freshman of their own in Kevin Love, it’s surprising to hear some people start changing their tune and taking Memphis not only to beat UCLA, but to win the entire shebang.

Without the blowout over Texas, it’s safe to say the bookmakers may not have made Memphis the favorites, but that is the case heading into Saturday with the line opening up at Memphis -1 and an over/under total of 134.5. Already the line has moved to Memphis -2.

However, with their athleticism, along with a balanced scoring attack of Rose, Chris Douglas Roberts and Joey Dorsey, Memphis has a legit shot at knocking off many people’s overall champ.

Many thought Xavier would give the Bruins a run for their money in their Elite 8 match up. The Musketeers couldn’t live up to the billing, though, as UCLA trounced them, 76-57.

Love showed why he was picked as a unanimous First Team All-American, scoring 19 points, grabbing 10 boards, dishing out 4 assists and blocking 2 shots. His uncanny knack for the ball gives his team a rebounding edge, as UCLA grabs 11.3 offensive boards per game.

The other good news coming out of the Bruins win was the play of Luc Richard Mbah A Moute, who has been hampered all tourney long by a bum ankle. Moute looked as if nothing bothered him, scoring 13 points on some tough, athletic shots, and grabbed 13 rebounds in 35 minutes.

The Bruins have done well for bettors most of the season, garnering a 20-14-2 record ATS along with a 19-17 over/under mark.

Thanks to a number of very large spreads, Memphis is just 17-19-2 ATS on the season.

The Tigers know what it’s like trying to cover spreads in the tourney as favorites (as does UCLA, of course), as they’re 6-1 when favored .5 to 6.5 in their last seven tourney games.

As of late, though, covering back to back spreads hasn’t been their thing. They blasted the -3.5 spread against Texas last time out, but are just 1-6 ATS in their last seven games after a covering the previous game.

Meanwhile, UCLA has hammered the underdog role, going 8-2 in their last 10 games ATS when they’re dogs of .5 to 6.5 points.

Both teams are 2-2 against the spread in their first four games of the tournament.

With a high scoring offense, Memphis has loved the over as of late, going over in all four tournament games this year and the last five overall.

Although UCLA has one of the best defenses in the country, the over has been a recent trend for bettors as well, as its 4-1 in their last four games when they’re the underdog.

Now that John Calipari and his squad have gotten over the hump of the Elite 8, it’s a matter of whether or not they are satisfied with where they are.

UCLA is in unfamiliar territory as an underdog, how are they going to respond? Either way, it should be a fun one to watch!

Oracle’s Pick: The public seems to be swayed by Memphis’ recent play, too, as they are siding with the Tigers. Don’t underestimate two things, though the coaching match up, and Kevin Love. Look for UCLA to do what most people thought they would do (originally, that is) and make it to the NCAA Championship game! Take UCLA plus any points you can get!