The headline of the Good Sam Empire Classic is set for Tuesday night with the no. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs and the no. 2 UCLA Bruins. These teams met last April in the Final Four, with Gonzaga surviving in overtime 93-90 to reach the national title game. In Tuesday’s neutral court game, the Bulldogs are favored by six points, with the over/under set at 156.5 points.
The Bruins enter the game at 5-0 after taking care of Bellarmine in the Empire Classic on Monday. UCLA already survived a challenge from a top-5 season, knocking off Villanova 86-77. The Bruins have also cruised in wins over the likes of Long Beach State and North Florida.
Of course, the Bulldogs are also a perfect 5-0 on the season. Mark Few’s team is fresh off a 53-point win on Monday night. Gonzaga also has a 12-point win over a top-5 Texas team on its resume early in the season while also beating Dixie State, Alcorn State, and Bellarmine in blowout fashion.
Despite losing three double-digit scorers from last season, including point guard Jalen Suggs, there has been no drop-off from Gonzaga. As expected, Drew Timme has become the key figure for the Zags, averaging close to 19 points per game despite not having to play that many minutes in early-season blowouts. Seven-foot freshman Chet Holmgren gives the Bulldogs even more size in the paint to trouble teams while also being second on the team in assists.
In the backcourt, Andrew Nembhard is trying his best to fill in for Suggs. While he’s not the scoring threat that Suggs was, he’s an experienced player who’s keeping the offense moving with nearly five assists per game. Meanwhile, Julian Strawther has taken a big step forward in his production while freshman Nolan Hickman and Iowa State transfer Rasir Bolton are ensuring that the Bulldogs have scoring options on the perimeter to complement Timme and Holmgren.
Bruins are Back
Unlike Gonzaga, the Bruins have brought back five players who averaged at least 10 points per game last season. For the most part, the team that came alive during the NCAA Tournament is still in place and has hit the ground running. The star of Johnny Juzang continues to rise, as he’s averaging nearly 20 points per game, including 25 points in the overtime win over Villanova.
Meanwhile, both Jules Bernard and Jaime Jaquez are averaging over 15 points per game early in the season, giving UCLA a loaded backcourt. Also, don’t forget point guard Tiger Campbell, who doesn’t need to score a lot to make an impact on both ends of the court. Finally, Rutgers transfer Myles Johnson gives the Bruins the kind of rebounding and defense in the paint that they didn’t have last season.
Pound the Paint
The Bruins probably have an advantage over the Gonzaga backcourt, although the gap might not be that big. Meanwhile, Johnson might not be enough to contain the tandem of Timme and Holmgren in the paint. Look for the Bulldogs to have enough of an edge inside to win and cover against UCLA on Tuesday.
100% up to $3,000 Bonus
Bovada is our most recommended ONLINE CASINO and POKER ROOM for US players with excellent deposit options. Get your 100% signup bonus today.