March Madness betting, odds: UCLA might be a good value bet before the tournament

UCLA played on Thursday night. They beat an Arizona State team, which was coming off a win at Arizona, and beat the Sun Devils by 18.

Maybe you didn't know that because it's easy to lose UCLA in the shuffle. The Bruins play late games on the West Coast. The Pac-12 isn't great this season. Maybe that's why UCLA is flying under the radar just a bit.

UCLA is 10-to-1 to win the NCAA tournament at BetMGM. That might be the best value on the board. UCLA could be the best team that's not getting enough attention in early March.

UCLA has had a strong season

UCLA has been very good for three straight seasons. In 2021, they lost in the Final Four on Gonzaga's buzzer-beater in an absolutely legendary NCAA tournament game. Last season the Bruins were good but injuries and a hot North Carolina team ended their run in the tournament early.

This team might be the best of the three.

UCLA is 26-4. They've had two odd blips — a two-game losing streak in November to Illinois and Baylor, and another in January at Arizona and USC. Since that loss to USC they've won nine in a row.

Advanced metrics love the Bruins. They're No. 2 at KenPom, No. 2 at Haslametrics and No. 4 in Bart Torvik's T-Rank. UCLA is No. 4 in the NCAA's NET rankings as well. That is being driven by an elite defense and a very good offense. Currently UCLA is outside of the No. 1 seeds in mock brackets but that could change if UCLA finishes with a home win against Arizona (the Bruins should be favored to win) and takes the Pac-12 tournament.

It's a resume that looks like a title contender, and the odds still aren't that bad.

UCLA guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. leads a strong Bruins team. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
UCLA guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. leads a strong Bruins team. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

Bruins are a contender

Houston is the favorite to win it all at +600. Kansas and Alabama are next at +800 (I had previously said Alabama was by title pick, but the Brandon Miller situation happened and they haven't covered a spread since). UCLA is in a group at +1000 after that.

UCLA has everything you want. Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Tyger Campbell are senior leaders. Jaquez is an All-America candidate. They don't turn it over. They rebound well. The only issue that might pop up in March is they don't shoot it great behind the 3-point line, but every team in the field has some flaw. UCLA has fewer than most.

The field seems pretty wide open about two weeks before the NCAA tournament tips off. There are good betting opportunities if you can identify the right champion. If UCLA beats Arizona on Saturday and wins the Pac-12 tournament, the Bruins will likely get a No. 1 seed and those +1000 odds will get shorter.

UCLA isn't getting a ton of attention yet. That might change soon.