The No. 4 UCLA Bruins (27-7) have avoided the madness so far, just beating No. 13 Akron in the first round before putting in a more convincing performance against Saint Mary's in the Round of 32.
Now in front of them are the No. 8 North Carolina Tar Heels (26-9). After crushing Marquette by 30+ in the opening round, the Tar Heels rolled that momentum into an overtime win over top-seeded Baylor and became the first team to send a one seed back home.
Can North Carolina keep the momentum going this weekend or will UCLA punch its ticket to the Elite Eight?
Continue reading for free March Madness picks and predictions for UCLA vs. North Carolina tonight, March 25th.
North Carolina vs UCLA odds
This odds widget represents the best odds available for each betting market from regulated sportsbooks.
UCLA opened as 2-point favorites and the line is now at -2.5. The total opened at 142.5 and has since moved to 141.5.
North Carolina vs UCLA predictions
Predictions made on 3/24/2022 at 8:00 p.m. ET.
Click on each prediction to jump to the full analysis.
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North Carolina vs UCLA game info
• Location: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
• Date: Friday, March 25, 2022
• Tip-off: 9:39 p.m. ET
• TV: CBS
North Carolina vs UCLA betting preview
North Carolina: None.
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Betting trend to know
North Carolina is 1-4 against the spread this season as underdogs of less than five points. Find more NCAA betting trends for North Carolina vs. UCLA.
North Carolina vs UCLA picks and predictions
Our side and total predictions are based upon our analysis of the line and total in this game. Our best bet is our favorite pick across all markets.
By any metric, UCLA is a great team. It has managed a 27-7 record and ranks eighth in overall KenPom adjusted efficiency, which includes the Bruins ranking 12th in both offense and defense.
Similarly, the Bruins are not without glaring flaws in their resume. Prior to the tourney, they managed just a 4-4 record against tournament teams and a similarly questionable 5-4 record in Quadrant 1 games.
To make matters worse, UCLA began the tournament as the only 1-8 seed in the East Region to have two Quadrant 2 losses, as well as it having as many Quadrant 3 losses as the rest of those teams combined.
That questionable resume against appreciable competition reared its head for a moment last Thursday when UCLA only managed 57 points against 13th seeded Akron, who fought the Bruins to a close four-point game.
But just as concerns began to build, UCLA answered on Saturday with a 16 point beat down of Saint Mary's, who had just come off a near 30 point victory in the first round.
Across last weekend, various players stepped up at different times but it was Tyger Campbell who stepped up as the lone Bruin to put together two solid performances across the two games. Campbell scored 16 points in each contest on 50% shooting from the field while also adding a handful of assists.
Campbell has come alive as of late, scoring 14+ in each of UCLA's last four games. While he averaged a more than respectable 11.8 points this season, he had only reached that mark once in the six games prior to that.
Campbell and the rest of UCLA (including leading scorers Johnny Juzang and Jaime Jaquez) will face off against a North Carolina defense that has been known to allow their fair share of points against elevated competition. In its 12 games against tournament teams this year, the Tar Heels have allowed an average of 78.8 a game.
Given that UCLA already averages a lofty 75.7 points this year, the looming question is if North Carolina can keep pace. 6-foot-10 big Armando Bacot averages 16.5 PPG and 12.5 RPG, leading the team in both categories and ranking third in the nation in the latter.
The Tar Heels surround Bacot with a trio of sharpshooters: Caleb Love (15.4 PPG, 37.0% 3P%), RJ Davis (13.3 ppg, 38.5% 3P%), and fan-favorite fifth-year senior Brady Manek (14.4 ppg, 38.6 3P%) who also assists on the glass with 5.7 RPG.
In the end, both teams have some questions in their resumes but UCLA's is ultimately better as a whole, hence why they are the four seed in this matchup. While UNC has a lot of momentum going into this game in theory, it's an entirely new weekend in a completely different venue.
Prediction: UCLA -2 (-110 at FanDuel)
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North Carolina is playing to the Over very frequently for the past two months, going 13-5 in such since mid-January. Over its last eight matches, UCLA is also 6-2 to the Over.
That has largely been a product of both teams doing their fair share of scoring as of late, with both the Tar Heels and Bruins hitting the 70 point mark in six of their last eight.
Both defenses are also not particularly great at limiting three-point volume (UCLA ranks 197th to UNC's 278th) and are similarly uninspiring at defending those looks (UCLA ranks 102nd to UNC's 220th).
Given that both offenses rank inside the Top 100 in making shots from the perimeter, it stands to reason that we could see a good amount of shots drop from deep.
Prediction: Over 141.5 (-110 at FanDuel)
First-year head coach Hubert Davis has done an incredible job in the Tar Heels' first season following Roy Williams' retirement. To have taken UNC this far and to put up the performances they did last weekend is worthy of flowers on their own.
But during a time of year when tournament experience has proven to matter, third-year Bruins coach Mark Cronin is just a step ahead of Davis. This UCLA team is of course the same one that shocked the world with a Final Four performance as a First Four eleven seed.
Johnny Juzang, Jaime Jaquez, Jules Bernard, and Tyger Campbell all didn't return this season to fall short of where they ended up last year, and while this year's run started a little bumpier than last year's, there is unfinished business.
UNC may be the hotter team, but UCLA is played better over the course of the season and they were in this exact spot just a year ago. Expect the Bruins to end the miraculously surprising season of the Tar Heels.
Pick: UCLA -2 (-110 at FanDuel)