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March Madness Preview
This is the upset that isn't really an upset. Even though Minnesota comes into this game as an 11-seed, they are -3 point favorites in most places. That kind of thing never happens, mainly because higher seeds are supposed to be better, especially in the first round. While most people are on the Gophers in this game, don't pick them to advance until you've done some research.
UCLA lost their second-leading scorer in Jordan Adams just a week ago which has people doubting what the Bruins can do. Especially with a shallow squad, not many can see them advancing. Norman Powell, Adams' replacement, played 37 minutes last game and compiled 10 points and four rebounds. Not bad, but not great. Adams averaged 15.3 points per game on the year and only 1.2 turnovers. Coming off the bench, Powell averaged 1.1 turnovers per game. Obviously, this team isn't the same as they're losing one of their better players.
The problem is no one is expecting other UCLA players to pick it up. Shabazz Muhammad was one of the most sought after recruits for a reason. He averaged 17.8 PPG on the year and has the ability to pick up that number with his skill. Apart from Muhammad, Kyle Anderson is another freshman that can probably increase his scoring. He already does it all on the court whether it's on defense or rebounding. This game will be important in that aspect as the Gophers are a much better rebounding squad. Larry Drew II will become a big factor as well on the offensive end. He's great for assists at 7.4 per game, but his scoring will have to improve. He doesn't take a lot of shots, but his percentages aren't all that bad, especially from three. Travis and David Wear can also both help out in the scoring and rebounding department.
As one can see, the Bruins still have plenty of options to go to on the offensive end. Minnesota on the other hand, is coming off three straight losses, including one to Nebraska. This is a team in a funk. You can usually count on them for their defense, but it's their offense that will be the deciding factor in this game.
In two of their last three games, their offense was putrid. How else do you explain scoring 51 points against Nebraska? Trevor Mbakwe will be the biggest piece in this game down low. With his size, he should be able to control the pain against a smaller Anderson and the weaker Wear brothers. Mbawke averages 10 points and close to nine boards on the season, but will need to surpass that here. Andre Hollins has been their best scorer this year which will need to continue. While everyone else has slowed down, he's been the only one on the Gophers to keep his game going during their losing streak. Behind those two, it's hit-or-miss. Austin Hollins has 28 points in his last two games, but put up a goose egg against Nebraska. Joe Coleman and Rodney Williams can be threats, but you never know what you'll get from them.
While UCLA lost Adams, they probably still have the better skilled team which can decide a lot of things in March Madness. If the Gophers can get a couple players to find their shot, that will help out a lot, but that still may be asking too much. Any time a team loses 11 of 16 games, you have to question their play no matter what conference they play in.
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