To close out the Round of 32, high-flying UCLA meets with up a Cincinnati team that was impressive in the first round, easily dispatching Kansas State. This will be a pure offense vs. defense matchup with UCLA having one of the best offenses and Cincinnati one of the best defenses in the country.
Starting with matchups, the Bearcats have the players to match whatever UCLA does, although it’s not a guarantee if they can actually stop them. Lonzo Ball runs the show and should be fine after taking a bad fall in the first round. He’ll see a lot of senior Troy Caupain, which won’t be easy. Elsewhere, Bryce Alford is there to hit open shots, Isaac Hamilton does a little bit of everything, with TJ Leaf and Thomas Welsh doing the dirty work in the paint. This isn’t a deep team with really only Aaron Holiday coming off the bench, but with a team full of scorers, that doesn’t matter much.
Cincinnati has the size and length to at least keep this Game competitive. What helps are the bigs of Gary Clark and Kyle Washington that will have plenty of fun bruising with Leaf and Welsh. The big thing is that both of them are key offensive pieces for Cincinnati, which means the mediocre UCLA defense has remain engaged throughout the Game. UCLA doesn’t normally get into foul trouble, but something that could turn the tide in this one early would be Clark and Washington getting the less athletic Leaf and Welsh into foul trouble. Of course, the same could be troublesome for Cincy, although UCLA is even worse at drawing fouls as it’s a shoot-first team.
Caupain came up huge against K State with 23 points and seven rebounds and Cincy will need a similar effort to have a chance in this Game. He’s their Fourth-leading scorer and if he makes Ball and Alford work on the other end, which should at least level things out. This may also be the Game that Jacob Evans takes a bigger role in after just nine points in the first round. Evans leads the Bearcats in scoring and will see a lot of Hamilton in this Game. Neither are the biggest parts of each team, but both are extremely important for what they have done this season.
At the end of the day, UCLA’s defense remains a top worry after allowing 80 points to Kent State last Game. The Bruins can Scoreon anyone, but their defense is what will keep Cincinnati around. And if the Bearcats can play defense anywhere similar to how they’ve played all season, this could end up being back-and-forth. UCLA has multiple playmakers that can get the ball in the basket, but with Cincinnati having plenty of able and athletic guys to defend the Bruins, that’ll make things interesting. UCLA will remain a popular team to back, but this is still a team that’s just 16-16-2 ATS all season.
Our Pick – Cincinnati +4