Posted on April 2, 2021
UCLA is the second team to play in the First Four and make it to the Final Four, joining the 2011 Rams of VCU.
Along with UCLA, the Arizona and Stanford women will also play in the national semifinal, giving the Pac-12 three teams playing in either the Men’s or Women’s Final Four this season, the most of any conference in the country, and the first time the Conference has had more than two teams advance that far.
The Pac-12’s dominance in this year’s Men’s Tournament was evidenced by its 10 wins out 13 by double figures—nine of them coming against other teams from a power conference. The Bruins’ trip to the Final Four is the 41st all-time for the Conference, and the 11th trip for the Pac since the tournament expanded to 64 teams for the 1985 Tournament.
The last Pac-12 team to play in the Final Four was Oregon in 2017.
Here are some statistical notes on the UCLA-Gonzaga matchup and the Final Four as a whole.
• This is UCLA’s first appearance in the final four since 2008, and the Bruins’ 19th all-time trip, trailing only the 20 by North Carolina.
• Johnny Juzang has been stellar during this run for the Bruins, averaging 21.6 points per game during the NCAA Tournament. Against Michigan, he scored 54.9% of UCLA’s point total. It was the second time this season that he has accounted for at least 50% of the Bruins point total. A feat that had not been carried out by a Bruin since Reggie Miller did so during the 1986-87 season.
• Tyger Campbell has 20 assists and just six turnovers in the NCAA Tournament while averaging 31.2 minutes per game. On the season Gonzaga has forced a turnover on 19.3% of possessions this season. Thanks in large part to the play of Campbell the Bruins have just turned the ball over on 11.1% of possessions in the Tournament. That figure for UCLA is the best of any team in the Final Four and an improvement on UCLA’s season rate of 15.4%—which is 24th best in the nation.
• In Gonzaga, the Bruins will face a team that has been clicking all season. The Zags have won a school record 34 straight games including 13 in a row on a neutral site. Each of the Bulldogs last 27 wins have been by double figures. For the season Gonzaga has won 29 of their 30 games by double figures and own an NCAA leading scoring margin of +23.1 on the season. (Houston +17.5 is second and Baylor is third at 17.4). The lone single digit win for the Zags this season was an 87-82 win over West Virginia in December at Bankers Life Fieldhouse
• Gonzaga is shooting 68.3% on non-blocked two-point FGs this season, the highest rate in the nation by over a percentage point. This was a defensive strength of USC in the Elite Eight, and the Zags still shot over 57% against the Trojans. UCLA is allowing opponents to shoot 53.9% on non-blocked two-point FG attempts this season, 144th in the nation. In the Tournament, that figure has shrunk to 50%.
• Another huge strength for Gonzaga is rebounding. The Zags have a total rebound rate of 55.9% on the season, the 10th-best in the nation. Michigan was 20th with a rate of 54.7% and had a 57.6% rate vs UCLA, so it is certainly something the Bruins can overcome.
The spot where UCLA will have to be big is on the defensive glass. Gonzaga has an offensive rebound rate 28.8%. 86th in the nation. So, when they do miss shots the last thing UCLA will want to do is give the Zags put-back opportunities. Against USC, they had 12 offensive rebounds, resulting in 12 second-chance points.
The best way to keep Gonzaga off the glass is by hitting shots. The Bruins have shot 45.8% from the floor on the season—66th in the nation. Against Michigan, the Bruins were just 38.9% from the field.
• Gonzaga is currently favored over UCLA by 14 points, the largest Final Four spread in the last 25 years. Since 1996, only three times in the National Semifinals or Finals has there been a double digit spread. Duke was an 11-point favorite over Michigan State in the 1999 Final Four; North Carolina was a 10-point favorite over Syracuse in the 2016 Final Four; while Kentucky entered the title game in 1996 as a 14-point favorite over Syracuse.
In each case the favorite won, but only UNC was able to cover the spread. But UCLA has been the dog in every Tournament game this season except for the Abilene Christian game, and the Bruins have thrived. (They also covered the 5½-point spread over ACU to be perfect ATS this tournament).
UCLA Bruins (22-9)
– 19th Final Four Trip (2008 most recent prior to this season)
– 11 National Championships (1995 most recent)
– 13-time Finalist
• Gonzaga 2-3 (Most recent 12/12/2015 UCLA 71-66)
• Baylor 3-0 (12/23/1975 UCLA 96-75)
• Houston 7-2 (11/19/2001 UCLA 71-60)
Gonzaga Bulldogs (30-0)
– Second Final Four (2017)
– Finalist in 2017
– All-time vs:
• UCLA 3-2 (12/12/2015 UCLA 71-66)
• Baylor 5-0 (3/23/2019 Gonzaga 83-71)
• Houston 0-0
Baylor Bears (26-2)
– Third Final Four (1950)
– Finalist 1948
– All-time vs:
• Houston 15-38 (11/30/2002 Baylor 62-60)
• Gonzaga 0-5 (3/23/2019 Gonzaga 83-71)
• UCLA 2-3 (12/23/1975 UCLA 96-75)
Houston Cougars (28-3)
– Sixth Final Four (1984)
– Finalist twice (1984)
– All-time vs:
• Baylor 38-15 (11/30/2002 Baylor 62-60)
• UCLA 2-7 (11/19/2001 UCLA 71-60)
• Gonzaga 0-0
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