Who: 6 UCLA (25-9) vs. 11 Minnesota (20-12)
When: Friday, 6:57 p.m. PT
Where: South region - Austin, TX
The 6 vs. 11 matchups frequently are some of the most exciting in the tournament and are ripe with upsets and this one should be no different. The Bruins won the Pac-12 regular season, but lost their second-leading scorer in freshman guard Jordan Adams in the semi-finals of the Pac-12 and probably aren't the same team, without the talented scorer, opening up the door for the Golden Gophers to pull of the upset.
Who are the stars?
Shabazz Muhammad Fr. F UCLA 6'6 225
Muhammad is a clear one-and-done player (In fact, he has already declared for the 2013 draft) with his NBA-style game and body. The Pac-12 co-freshman player of the year, Muhammad is among one of the best players in the nation regardless of class and is a big bodied Guard/Forward that can shoot, rebound, defend and get to the basket with the best of them.
Trevor Mbakwe Sr. F Minnesota 6'8 245
Mbakwe is a true power forward that rebounds as good as anyone in the country and uses his size and athleticism to intimidate on defense and score underneath the basket. The Bruins don't have anyone down low that can Mbakwe physically, so expect to wreak havoc underneath.
Andre Hollins So. G Minnesota 6'1 200
Hollins is a strong guard that can light it up from the outside and is the Gophers' best scorer. Not just a scorer either, Hollins can distribute and give opposing guards fits on defense with his strength and ability to steal the ball.
Muhammad against himself.
Some commentators pointed it out and it looked pretty clear, that Muhammad looked a bit disinterested in the Pac-12 Tournament, even though it was being played in his hometown of Las Vegas. The Bruins may have been able to win some games with Muhammad not filling it up if they had Adams, but they will absolutely need a big performance from Muhammad if they hope to beat the Gophers without Adams.
Can UCLA handle the Gophers inside?
The Bruins pretty much rely on the Wear twins (Travis & David) to handle all of their business down low, and while the 6'10 twins are skilled, they aren't the bangers that the Gophers' Mbakwe and Rodney Williams are. The Wear twins have had trouble with physical guys, but could negate Mbakwe and Williams if they can utilize their height advantage to block some shots and stay out of foul trouble.
You're a Pac-12 fan, why do you want UCLA to win?
Even without Adams, the Bruins are still one of the most talented teams from the Pac-12 and might have the best chance of any to make a serious run in the tournament. If you would like to see a Pac-12 team in the Sweet 16 or possibly the Elite 8, the Bruins might be your best bet.
I think the Bruins got a tough matchup. I thought that the Gophers were going to be an 8 or 9 seed and the Adams-less Bruins are kind of a weak 6 seed. I don't think the Bruins will respond well to Minnesota's physical play and they will have a very tough time scoring against the Gophers' disciplined defense with Muhammad being their only healthy guy who can really fill it up. I expect to see a game like the ones they played in the Pac-12 Tournament where they get behind early on, but make a run in the second half and make it close, but like the Pac-12 championship game, I don't think they will be able to pull it out.
Minnesota 69 UCLA 64