The matchup months in the making has finally arrived, as the nation's top two teams will go head-to-head in a rematch of last March's iconic Final Four on Tuesday night.
WHO: UCLA vs. Gonzaga
DATE: Tuesday, Nov. 23
TIME: 7 p.m. PT
LOCATION: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, NV
TV: ESPN – Dave O'Brien (play-by-play), Dick Vitale (analyst)
STREAMING: fuboTV – Get 7-day Free Trial
RADIO: AM 1150, Sirius Ch. 137, XM Ch. 197, SXM App 959 – Josh Lewin (play-by-play), Tracy Murray (analyst)
SPREAD: Gonzaga -7 (-110), UCLA +7 (-110)*
MONEY LINE: Gonzaga (-300), UCLA (+240)*
OVER/UNDER: O 155.5 (-110), U 155.5 (-110)*
UCLA is the No. 2 team in the country according to both the AP and Coaches Polls, and was the preseason favorite to win the Pac-12. Gonzaga is the No. 1 team in the country in both polls and was the unanimous preseason pick to win the West Coast Conference.
The Bruins went 22-10 last season, including a 6-4 record at neutral sites. Dating back to the start of the 2017-2018 season, they are 13-14 at neutral sites. UCLA finished off last season by making a run from the First Four to the Final Four, narrowly losing to then-undefeated Gonzaga on a buzzer-beater in overtime.
The Bulldogs would go on to lose in the national championship game to Baylor, putting an end to their pursuit of a perfect season at 31-1. Having made the Sweet 16 in five consecutive NCAA tournaments, they boast a solid neutral site record of 60-12 since the start of the 2014-2015 season.
UCLA is off to a 5-0 start to this season, surrounding its high-profile overtime with over then-No. 4 Villanova with victories against Cal State Bakersfield, Long Beach State and North Florida. In its first game of the Empire Classic, they defeated Bellarmine 75-62. The Bruins are averaging 90.8 points per game and allowing 67.8.
Gonzaga is also 5-0 so far in 2021, matching UCLA's Villanova win with a victory over then-No. 5 Texas. They have also beaten Dixie State, Alcorn State and Bellarmine, with a win over Central Michigan starting their week at the Empire Classic. The Bulldogs are averaging 93.2 points per game and allowing 59.6.
The Bruins opened the year with all five starters and the whole bench returning from last year's Final Four team, but reserve big man Mac Etienne suffered a season-ending right knee injury in practice and forward Cody Riley sprained his left knee Nov. 9 and is set to miss at least another week. Leading scorers Johnny Juzang, Jaime Jaquez Jr., Jules Bernard and Tyger Campbell are all returning to carry the load, with Jaylen Clark, David Singleton and Jake Kyman coming off the bench, Rutgers center Myles Johnson transferring in during the offseason and five-star freshman wing Peyton Watson joining the fray as well.
Juzang is the top scorer so far this season with 19.8 points per game, while Jaquez and Bernard are averaging 15.6 and 15.4 a night, respectively.
The Bulldogs lost three of their top players to the NBA, including sharpshooter Corey Kispert and the guard tandem of Joel Ayayi and Jalen Suggs. Leading scorer and All-American Drew Timme returns to man the post, though, and last year's WCC Sixth Man of the Year Andrew Nembhard has been promoted to starting point guard. No. 1 recruit Chet Holmgren has arrived as well, giving them an inside-out, long defensive threat.
Both Holmgren and Watson, who had come face to face before reaching the collegiate level, set career highs with 19 points to lead their respective teams in scoring on Monday.
Mick Cronin is now in his 19th season as a head coach, and he has an all-time record of 411-193 with 12 NCAA tournament appearance across stints at Murray State, Cincinnati and UCLA. Mark Few is now in his 23rd season as a head coach on the opposite bench, and he has an all-time record of 635-125 with 21 NCAA tournament appearances and two national runner-up finishes during his career at Gonzaga.
UCLA is 2-4 against Gonzaga head-to-head, with the most recent matchup coming in last year's Final Four. The Bruins, who won the last regular season battle between the teams on Dec. 12, 2015, have been the lower ranked team in each of their last five meetings with the Bulldogs.
*Odds via SI Sportsbook