When: Friday, 6:57 p.m. PT
Where: Frank Erwin Center, Austin, Texas
TV: Tru TV
Radio: AM 570
Scouting the Bruins: No. 6-seeded UCLA is the Pac-12 regular-season champion. The Bruins advanced to the Pac-12 tournament final before losing, 78-69, to Oregon. The Bruins defeated Arizona along the way, but in that game lost second-leading scorer Jordan Adams to a broken foot. Adams was averaging 15.3 points and scored 24 in the victory over Arizona, so his absence will be difficult to overcome. Sophomore Norman Powell was thrust into a starting role and performed admirably (10 points, four rebounds) in place of Adams, but the already shallow UCLA bench became thinner and the Bruins showed signs of fatigue. It’s a major blow to UCLA’s desire to play a fast, up-tempo offensive game but that doesn’t mean they should be written off. Shabazz Muhammad (17.8 ppg) is still among the most gifted scorers in the nation while Larry Drew II can help pick up some of the scoring slack if needed. Drew is 18-for-28 on 3-point attempts over the last 10 games. The Bruins will need twins Travis Wear (11.2 points) and David Wear (7.0 ppg) to also increase their scoring load and will hope streaky shooter Kyle Anderson can stay hot for the tournament. Little-used freshman Tony Parker will see an increase in minutes as a backup to keep the UCLA frontcourt players fresher and he’ll need to hit the boards hard. UCLA has been out-rebounded in 19 of its last 22 games. The 11-time national champion Bruins are in the NCAA Tournament for the 45th time and the seventh in coach Ben Howland’s 10 seasons. Howland is 5-1 in previous NCAA Tournament openers.
Scouting the Golden Gophers: No. 11-seeded Minnesota finished tied for seventh in the Big Ten and lost in the first round of the conference tournament. The Gophers have stumbled down the stretch with 11 losses in their last 16 games, but posted an impressive, 77-73, victory over then-No. 1 Indiana on Feb. 26 -- a victory that probably got them into the tournament. Sophomore guard Andre Hollins leads the team with 13.9 points and 3.4 assists per game, but three others -- Austin Hollins, Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams -- each average 10 points. Mbakwe (6-8) and Williams (6-7) offer the rebounding presence inside that should worry UCLA. They are averaging 8.7 and 5.1 rebounds, respectively, for a team that is No. 17 in the nation in total rebounding with 38.8 per game and led the Big Ten in rebounding margin (+8.2). Mbakwe leads all Big Ten players in rebounding and is third in the conference in blocked shots (48). Williams is right behind with 43 blocks. Minnesota is in the NCAA tournament for the ninth time in school history, the first since 2010. Coach Tubby Smith, who won a national title with Kentucky in 1998, is making his 17th trip to the NCAA Tournament. He has a 29-15 overall tournament record.
The series: UCLA leads the all-time series, 5-1. The teams last met in the 1997 Elite Eight with Minnesota winning, 80-72. That victory, which was later vacated, is the only meeting between the teams in the NCAA Tournament and also the only meeting between them since 1969.
Quick quote: “We’re playing a great team and an outstanding program,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said. “Tubby, I have great respect for. He’s one of the best coaches in the country and has proven that during his tenure at Tulsa, Georgia, Kentucky and Minnesota, so you know they’ll be very well prepared. They come out of a great conference that obviously has a lot of teams that are in the NCAA Tournament this year.”