As we slowly inch closer to tonight’s late tip, let’s see what the national media has to say about Kentucky’s chances vs. UCLA:
The Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy: Kentucky
(3) UCLA v. (2) Kentucky
If you’re Kentucky, how do you play this? They know they can run with the Bruins. They figure they can win running with the Bruins, although the only piece of available evidence in that regard favors UCLA. But most of UCLA’s defeats have occurred when its team has been drawn into less comfortable games in which defense is a priority and the pace is measured. Southern California did it that way once, and nearly a second time. Arizona did it in the Pac-12 Tournament. We’re not talking about a slowdown. It’s unlikely anyone’s keeping UCLA in the 60s. We’re talking about just forcing the Bruins to guard. They’re better at it now than they once were, but the less they are forced to deal with that end of the court, the happier they’ll be.
The pick: Kentucky, but only if the Wildcats make UCLA work.
The SEC Network
CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish: UCLA
(2) Kentucky -1 vs. (3) UCLA
Straight-up pick: UCLA
ATS pick: UCLA
I have UCLA winning the national championship, so there’s no way to not take the Bruins here without disrespecting my bracket. And I don’t want to disrespect my bracket. So give me Lonzo Ball and the Bruins over Malik Monk and the Wildcats. But it’s worth noting that Kentucky will have a sizable fan advantage inside FedExForum. That has to be worth something. But it’s also worth noting that UCLA has already beaten Kentucky inside Rupp Arena. And that has to be worth something too.
Dick Vitale: Kentucky
— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) March 24, 2017
ESPN’s BPI: Kentucky 55.2%
FiveThirtyEight: Kentucky 68%
Why Kentucky will win: As UCLA saw in December, Malik Monk and Bam Adebayo play more like grizzled veterans than freshmen, and that’s really been true in the NCAA tournament. They both had key blocked shots in the final 15 seconds of the down-to-the-wire win against Wichita State in the second round, and Adebayo had double-doubles in each of Kentucky’s first two NCAA tournament games.
Why UCLA will win: Turnovers. Or, rather, a lack of them. In their first two NCAA tournament games, the Bruins had nine turnovers. Total. That’s an insane stat, especially given the competition. Now, the Bruins have had games with a lot of turnovers – 18 in their win against Kentucky in December, in fact. But they’ve been much better taking care of the ball down the stretch, finishing with double-digit turnovers just twice in the last seven games.