When we get to the Final Four in the NCAA Tournament, we are normally looking at some very competitive matchups. And teams that are on a roll really have to be respected. The UCLA Bruins are a team that fits that category, but sometimes these streaks have to come to an end. So is it all over for them on Saturday night as they take on the Gonzaga Bulldogs?
That's the question for us, after UCLA has scored no less than five wins in the NCAA Tournament - over Michigan State, BYU, Abilene Christian, Alabama and Michigan. That's an impressive run for sure, but some observers believe none of that prepares them for what they'll face with Gonzaga.
Maybe this reporter is one of those observers. And maybe there's a chance to make some money at HRWager.
UCLA has obviously done some things that are very impressive in this tournament. For one thing, they have been pretty solid from beyond the arc, as they have made just below 38%. And there has been a step up defensively, as they have yielded only 24.7% threes. That's important to remember, as we'll get around to in a minute.
They have also committed just 7.2 turnovers per game, which is the type of thing that might always give them a chance - if they can hit some shots, that is.
You can bet your bottom dollar that Gonzaga is going to get out there and try to take Johnny Juzang out of the game. When you watch a guy hit 28 of his team's 51 points, as he did against Michigan, that's going to be the plan. What kind of "Plan B" will the Bruins come up with at that point?
We're not saying they won't have one. But we know that UCLA is going to try to work the ball around in the halfcourt, and the 'Zags can trap and do a lot of things in that setting to force the Bruins to go elsewhere. This would be the time for long-range shooters like Jaime Jaquez and Jules Bernard (only 14 treys between them in the tournament) to come alive.
And it goes without saying that missed shots will trigger Gonzaga's transition game. We're not sure that UCLA has someone who can keep up with Jalen Suggs (18 points, ten rebounds, eight assists in the Elite Eight win over USC).
UCLA won't be able to defend Gonzaga in all aspects. We suspect that they will make the 'Zags beat them from downtown. Gonzaga is so good from two-point range (63.7%) that you can't possibly ignore that. Unfortunately for Mick Cronin's team, they don't really have depth up front with Jalen Hill and Chris Smith unavailable, and this might lead to Cody Riley getting into foul trouble.
And the problems could snowball. Gonzaga has too many weapons, and they spread it around. Certainly UCLA wants to slow up the game as much as possible, but really, the only way they can control that is when they have the ball. And guess what? Gonzaga has allowed 28% triples since the tournament began. Who's more deliberate than Virginia? Gonzaga scored 98 points against them. Ouch!
West Virginia is the only team to get within ten points against them. So it is not a stretch to think that if there is a straight-up win, we are talking about a margin. Using that logic, laying the points here is not difficult for us.
Charles Jay is unlike most analysts associated with
handicapping and the gaming industry, in that he also has had extensive
experience in the so-called "mainstream" media as well.
He has been involved with professional sports industry for
almost two decades, working in all capacities, as a matchmaker, booking agent,
manager, and also as an editorial consultant on USA Network's "Tuesday Night
Fights," which, for a time, carried "Charles Jay's Line" on
upcoming fights. As a broadcaster, he has called world title fights around the
world for various outlets, and has served as a color commentator for Sunshine
Network and Prime Network.
His radio experience includes being the host of numerous
programs, including "Sportswatch with Charles Jay" on KDWN in Las
Vegas, "Total Action" on WAXY 790 in Miami, and "Charles Jay's
Winning Edge", syndicated into 55 markets by the American Radio Networks,
and he's done podcasts on all subjects related to sports, gaming and popular
Working within the casino industry, he has a special events
consultant for Casino Magic in Mississippi, as that venue established itself in
the early 1990s as a hotbed of boxing activity in particular. Prior to this, he
had been engaged as a casino gaming columnist for, among others, Casino Player,
Card Player and Sports Form (now known as Gaming Today), specializing in
blackjack. And later on, his investigative series on boxing, entitled
"Operation Cleanup," won him much critical acclaim, including the
2003 "Dignity" Award, in the category of "Best Sports
Writer," as bestowed by the Retired Boxers Foundation, a non-profit
organization dedicated to rendering assistance to ex-fighters in need.
In 2006 he established a content services division of his
company, which has eventually evolved in JayWords, and he is arguably the
world's most prolific sports & gaming writer, with over 20,000 articles to
his credit, the vast majority of which have been sports handicapping pieces. So
you might say he has analyzed as many sporting events as anyone alive during
this period. He has also brought some interest with his so-called
"gimmick" odds on special events, including the Academy Awards, the
NFL Draft, and the Super Bowl, for which he posted dozens and dozens of
different odds propositions with various sportsbooks.
This renaissance man is a winner of the Retired Boxers Foundation's "Dignity Award" and a member of the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame; graduate of the University of
Miami (Florida) who currently resides in the South Florida area.