Preview: No. 11 UCLA vs. No. 14 UAB

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Both double-digit seeds are coming off of thrilling one-point victories on Thursday to make it to the third round of the tournament. UAB was able to hit a jumper with 20 seconds to win, while the basketball gods saved UCLA as the Bruins won on a goaltending call.  The stakes are even higher today as the Sweet 16 is on the line.

UAB had the worst shooting percentage ever for a 14 seed to win a game. Both of these team’s postseasons may have been in doubt as UCLA somehow magically was awarded an at-large bid, while UAB put together a run in the C-USA tournament to secure an automatic bid.  This is a rematch of a neutral site game in the Bahamas in November.  UCLA was ranked No. 22 in the nation at the time.  UCLA is 3-0 all-time against UAB.

Recap of the Nov. 28 Game

The Bruins won the Battle 4 Atlantis game 88-76.  UCLA dominated the first half and UAB was never able to recover.  With 8:12 left in the game, UCLA held a lead of 77-55.  UAB put on a 17-5 run to cut it to 10, but the Blazers never cut it to single digits. UAB was not playing with two of their best players in this game.  UAB was without star freshman forward William Lee due to a knee injury, and leading scorer Robert Brown played significantly fewer minutes than he had all season.  It was also UAB’s third game against a ranked opponent in three days.

Key to the Game

The key for the Blazers to win in the tourney was the ability to crash the boards.  The key to victory for UCLA will be their big men’s ability to box out UAB. UAB was able to out-rebound Iowa State and pulled down the most offensive rebounds Iowa
State has allowed all season.  If UCLA can eliminate the Blazers second-chance points, their chance to win goes way up.

X-Factor

William Lee is the man that UAB will count on in this one.  The forward was unable to play in the game back in November, so the Bruins have not had a chance to face the forward yet.  He had a double-double Thursday and hit the go ahead shot to win the Blazers first tournament game since 2005. Lee sparked the offense in the final minutes on Thursday and the Blazers need the same thing again today.  Lee will take on fellow freshman Kevon Looney.

Prediction

Neither of these teams were projected to win their first game in the tournament.  UAB pulled off the 4th biggest upset against the spread in the tournament in the last 20 years. It’s a safer pick to pick the Bruins in this one, especially after they have already beaten UAB this year, but I’m picking against the grain once again and taking the Blazers in this one, 63-60.

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