Cincinnati is a legitimate NCAA Tournament squad due to its suffocating defense that is 11.4 points per game better than average (60.8 points per game to teams that would combine to average 72.2 points per game).
Teams are shooting just 38.5% from the field against the Bearcats, who rank 5th in the country in scoring defense and 7th in field goal percentage defense. Cincinnati’s stop unit travels extremely well, limiting foes to a mere 59.0 points per game on the road (38.2% FG; 30.9% 3-PT).
Cincinnati is well-coached under Mick Cronin, who led the Bearcats to an impressive 27-4 record during the regular season. One of the major differences between this year’s team compared to previous versions is the fact that the Bearcats can score this season.
Cincinnati is averaging 74.5 points per game against teams that would combine to allow just 70.0 points per game to a mediocre offense. While 74.5 points per game is generally unremarkable on a national level, it’s quite extraordinary for a team like Cincinnati who struggled to eclipse 65 points per game in year’s past.
In fact, the Bearcats had on of the Conference’s top field goal percentages (46) and scoring margins (+14.5) during the regular season. The improved ability to score makes Cincinnati a threat to make a deep run in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
Meanwhile, UCLA owns a subpar defense that is 2.0 points per game worse than average (75.5 points per game to teams that would combine to average 73.5 points per game) and gave up 77.6 points per game on the road this season.
I also like the fact that Cincinnati is 6th in the nation in fewest turnovers per game (10.0) and 14th in turnover margin (3.5) so the Bearcats don’t beat themselves.
Let’s also note that Cincinnati’s aggressive style of defense does not result in many personal fouls (12th nationally; 15.9 per game), but it does produce a good number of blocked shots (24th nationally; 5.1 per game).
From a technical standpoint, Cincinnati applies to a very good 59-25 ATS system that invests on certain underdogs who have played excellent defense over their last seven games versus non-conference opponents.<br.
The Bearcats are also 4-1 ATS in their last five neutral site contests and 5-1 ATS in their last six games overall, whereas UCLA is a money-burning 5-16 ATS in its last 21 games as a favorite, 2-8 ATS in its last ten games versus .501 or greater opposition and 0-4 ATS in its last four games overall.
Finally, my math model favors UCLA by 2.3 points in this game, while my secondary model installs the Bruins as 2-point favorites.
With UCLA standing at 3-13 ATS in its last sixteen games after failing to cover the spread in two or more consecutive affairs, grab the points with the under-the-radar Bearcats as Oskeim Sports’ Free NCAA Tournament Pick and invest with confidence.
Oskeim Sports’ NCAA Tournament Free Pick: Cincinnati (+4)