In 2021, Jalen Suggs, now playing for the Orlando Magic, hit a shot from nearly half-court to give Gonzaga a Final Four victory over UCLA at the buzzer. The Bruins will be out 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, with Tyger Campbell and Jaime Jaquez Jr. among them. Those two will want to go out there and beat the Zags team that finished their season, but it’s kind of hard to ignore how banged up UCLA is right now.
Mick Cronin’s team not only lost Jaylen Clark, one of the team’s best two-way players and Pac-12 defensive player of the year, before the tournament, but David Singleton suffered a sprained ankle in the second-round win of the Bruins over Northwest. 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 ranked 21st in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency and second in adjusted defensive efficiency. However, since Clark’s injury, the Bruins have slipped to 13th in adjusted defensive efficiency. That’s not a massive drop, but it’s clear the Bruins aren’t the same without Clark. Against a team that runs offensively with Gonzaga precision, a small drop in defensive performance could be the difference.
The Zags lead the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency, which isn’t entirely surprising considering they still run their offense through superstar Drew Timme. He was a monster in Gonzaga’s win over Texas Christian, and he’s ready to have a big game against UCLA. He is the best low post player in the nation and reads the floor incredibly well for a big man. Gonzaga also has reliable 3-point shooters: The Zags rank ninth in 3-point shooting percentage. Timme will spot those guys and make them look as good as possible.
If Gonzaga can be defensive, it will be hard for UCLA to win. The Zags rank 83rd in adjusted defensive efficiency, but teams tend to play better defense when their seasons are on the line. And Gonzaga’s 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 a.m. PT
Where: Las Vegas
Television / Streaming: CBS; marchmadness.com; Paramount+
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