MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS (20-12)
vs. UCLA BRUINS (25-9)
NCAA Tournament – Second Round
Tip-off: Friday, 9:55 p.m. ET
Line: Minnesota -3, Total: 135
Short-handed UCLA tries to win its sixth straight NCAA Tournament opener when it faces a Minnesota team eager to end its tourney win drought on Friday night in Austin, TX.
The Gophers haven't won an NCAA Tournament game since losing by nine points to Kentucky in the 1997 Final Four. Since then Minnesota is 0-4 with four double-digit defeats, the most recent of which came as a 65-54 decision versus Xavier in 2010. This season, Minnesota began 15-1 SU and was ranked No. 8 in the country, but finished the season with 11 losses in its final 16 games, including three in a row, all to unranked teams. The Bruins haven't lost in the Round of 64 since falling to Texas Tech in 2005, but they did lose the Pac-12 title game one night after seeing star freshman Jordan Adams (15.3 PPG) suffer a season-ending foot injury. UCLA has 25 wins SU, but hasn't been a profitable wager with a 14-18-1 ATS mark. This includes a 1-5-1 ATS record at neutral sites where it has actually been outscored by its opponents.
Who will advance to the Round of 32? For the answer, connect to 2013 NCAA Tourney Picks for all the Expert picks throughout the entire tournament. The four StatFox experts begin the NCAA Tournament on quite a roll, going a collective 75% ATS (35-12-1) in the season's final four days and 67% ATS (67-33-2) since March 9, with StatFox Gary going 75% ATS (12-4), StatFox Brian posting a 68% ATS mark (19-9-1), StatFox Dave also at 68% ATS (17-8) and StatFox Scott winning 61% ATS (19-12-1) in those final nine days. Gary has a 68% ATS record (23-11) since Feb. 27 to improve to 56.1% ATS (110-86-4) for the entire college basketball season.
Minnesota is not the most talented offensive team (68.4 PPG on 44.2% FG), but no school plays harder than the Gophers who have a rebounding margin of +8.2 RPG (8th in nation) and block 5.7 shots per game (9th in D-I). This helps to limit teams to 61.7 PPG on 39.6% FG. But turnovers have been problematic at times (minus-1.0 TOPG) and if this team starts trailing, it has a hard time catching up with just 5.2 made threes per game on a 32.6% clip. PF Trevor Mbakwe (10.0 PPG, 8.7 RPG) is one tough customer, tallying 10 double-doubles this season. One of those was his 21 points and 12 rebounds in an upset of No. 1 Indiana on Feb. 26, but he has not been very assertive during his team's three-game losing skid with just 9.7 PPG on 11-of-22 FG combined. PG Andre Hollins (13.9 PPG, 3.4 APG, 3.5 RPG) never has to be told to shoot more, as he jacks up 10.5 shots per game and only makes 40.5% of them. He's scored more than 10 points in six straight games though (14.8 PPG), going a combined 18-for-45 (40%) from three-point range. SF Rodney Williams (10.3 PPG, 5.1 RPG) has been wildly inconsistent recently, scoring 7, 10, 0, 13 and 5 points in his past five contests. He had a terrible game in the Big Ten Tournament loss to Illinois, committing four turnovers and making just two shots in 38 minutes of action. SG Austin Hollins (10.6 PPG, 3.3 RPG) started this losing streak with zero points (0-for-5 FG) at Nebraska, but has 14.0 PPG on 8-of-13 FG (5-of-9 threes) in the past two defeats.
UCLA's offense is much more explosive than Minnesota's, averaging 74.7 PPG on 45.5% FG. But this isn't a team that relies a whole lot on outside shooting, making just 4.9 threes per game (297th in nation). This lack of love for the three-point shot makes the Bruins very efficient, as evidenced by their 11.1 TOPG and +3.1 TO margin, numbers that both rank 24th in the nation. They also play defense without fouling (14.9 fouls per game, 18th in D-I), but still come away with an impressive 8.2 steals per game. Freshman SG Shabazz Muhammad (17.8 PPG, 5.3 RPG) is a dynamic scorer who has scored in double-figures in every game except one (six points at Utah on Jan. 10). He pumped in 13.7 PPG and 7.0 RPG in the three Pac-12 Tournament games. Junior PF Travis Wear (11.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG) also had a great conference tournament with 13.0 PPG and 6.0 RPG in the three games. Wear shoots 50% from the floor and 81% from the foul line on the season. With Jordan Adams out, SF Kyle Anderson (9.8 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 3.5 APG) must look to score more. He did have 11 points in Saturday's loss to Oregon, but averaged just 5.8 PPG in his previous four games. Anderson's usually big rebounding numbers have also waned in the past three contests with a mere 4.7 RPG despite 32.0 MPG of action. PG Larry Drew II (7.6 PPG, 7.4 APG) remains one of the best floor generals in the entire land. His 7.4 APG ranks fourth in the nation, while his 3.12 Ast/TO ratio places him third in the country. Drew also scored 14 points (6-for-11 FG) on Saturday, which helped make up for an uncharacteristic five turnovers in that loss to Oregon.