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UConn vs Gonzaga Predictions, Odds, and Picks: Zags Bend Too Far on D

Gonzaga's looked far more vulnerable than UConn so far in March Madness, and our betting picks think that comes to a head in the Sweet 16 — particularly on defense.

Last Updated: Mar 25, 2023 2:58 PM ET Read Time: 4 min

The No. 4 seed UConn Huskies face off against the No. 3 seed Gonzaga Bulldogs in the Elite Eight this evening. These programs are no stranger to March Madness success, with the Zags looking to advance to the Final Four for the third time in the last six NCAA tournaments and the Huskies aiming to return for the first time since their title in 2014.

March Madness odds opened with Huskies as 2-point favorites with the Over/Under at 153.5 for this showdown at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Here are my best free UConn vs. Gonzaga March Madness picks and predictions for March 25. 

UConn vs Gonzaga best odds

UConn vs Gonzaga picks and predictions

UConn has been dominant lately and clobbered Arkansas 88-65 in the Sweet 16. It was a complete performance from the Huskies who shot 57% from the floor while holding the Razorbacks to 32% shooting and had a 39-25 edge on the glass.

The inside/outside combination of Adama Sanogo (18 points on 9-11 shooting in just 24 minutes) and Jordan Hawkins (24 points) was too much for the Razorbacks' Top-20 defense to stop and now they get to feast on Gonzaga, who sits outside the top 250 in points allowed (73.6 ppg) and opponent field-goal percentage (44.9%)

That Zags team edged UCLA in a close contest on Thursday thanks to the Bruins going ice-cold on offense for more than 10 minutes and Drew Timme carrying Gonzaga with 36 points. 

Timme was able to take advantage of a UCLA team that was missing its best interior defender in center Adem Bona. The Bruins also had their second-best rebounder in Jaylen Clark, sidelined which helped Gonzaga enjoy a +23 rebounding margin. Those extra chances fueled a 22-6 run in the second half and allowed Gonzaga to pull ahead after trailing for most of the contest. 

Timme will surely get some points, but he won't have the same dominance against a strong UConn frontcourt that will provide resistance thanks to Sanogo and 7-foot-2 freshman Donovan Clingan (5.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in just 13.2 minutes per game). The Zags also won't have the same success on the glass against the Huskies, who rank second in the country in rebound rate (56.8%). 

The Huskies are 10th in the country in defending the rim per ShotQualityBets and are also 22nd in defensive efficiency in transition. That ability to prevent points on the fast break and protect the paint should be able to slow down a high-octane Gonzaga attack. 

On the other side of the ball, the Huskies will be able to get buckets against a Zags team that has been vulnerable on defense all season. They don't defend well close to the basket, which is where Sanogo thrives, and they also struggle on the perimeter where the Huskies excel at catch-and-shoot threes. 

My best bet: UConn -2 (-110 at bet365)

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UConn vs Gonzaga spread analysis

These teams might be in the same place on Saturday night, but they took completely different paths in the tourney to get here. The Huskies cruised to victories in their three games, routing Iona by 24 points and beating Saint Mary's by 15 before hammering Arkansas by 23 points in the Sweet 16. 

The Zags had a tough time separating from Grand Canyon in the opening round and then edged TCU by three points in a back-and-forth battle in the Round of 32. Their Sweet 16 matchup against UCLA was even tougher as they had to fight back from a 13-point halftime deficit and then almost squandered a late lead before burying a deep three. 

The Zags have the No. 1 offense in the country according to KenPom, but rank just 73rd in adjusted defensive efficiency. Since the 2012 NCAA Tournament, only three Final Four teams have ranked outside the Top 40 in adjusted defensive efficiency and none were outside the Top 50. 

On the other hand, the Huskies are one of just four teams in the country that rank in the Top 20 in both offense (third) and defense (13th) per KenPom, and it's no coincidence those other teams are also in the Elite Eight.

The battle between Timme and Sanogo on the inside will be crucial. Timme is a two-time WCC Player of the Year and averages 21.5 ppg on 62.3 FG% while Sanogo leads the Huskies with 17.3 ppg while shooting 61% from the floor. The matchup between Gonzaga's Julian Strawther (15.4 ppg on 48/42/77 shooting splits) and Hawkins (16.1 ppg on 41/38/89 shooting) should also be fun to watch. 

UConn vs Gonzaga Over/Under analysis

The O/U opened at a very high 153.5, especially when you consider that UConn has a stingy defense and ranks outside the Top 200 in adjusted tempo.

That said, while the Huskies rank 237th in average length of possession on offense (18.1 seconds), they're 55th in length of possession on defense (17.1 seconds), so don't expect them to slow down a Zags team that loves to push the pace. 

The Bulldogs are 39th in the country in adjusted tempo and their ability to run the floor appeared to tire out the Bruins during the second half on Thursday. The final score went way Over the total of 146.5 in that game, which is shocking when you consider how highly-ranked UCLA's defense is and that the Bruins didn't get a single field goal for an 11-minute span. 

The Zags have shown the ability to force their up-tempo style on opponents and the Huskies have been sucked into faster-paced contests this season. Six games against fast-paced, high-scoring teams in the Big East in Marquette, Xavier, and Saint John's all saw final scores of at least 156 points.  

The Huskies also dropped 82 points against Alabama earlier this season and have been shooting lights out in this tourney. They scored 87 points against an Iona team that allows 65.6 ppg, shot 54% from the floor against Saint Mary's (eighth in the country in adjusted defense), and then dropped 88 points on Arkansas (16th in adjusted defense). 

UConn vs Gonzaga betting trend to know

The Huskies are 7-1 ATS in their last eight games versus a team with a winning percentage above .600 while the Bulldogs are 7-19-2 ATS in their previous 28 contests against opponents above .600. Find more college basketball betting trends for UConn vs. Gonzaga.

UConn vs Gonzaga game info

Region: West
Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, NV
Date: Saturday, March 25, 2023
Tip-off: 8:49 p.m. ET

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