No. 11-seed UCLA (21-13) vs. No. 14-seed UAB (20-15)
NCAA Tournament — South Regional, Round of 32
Saturday, 9:10 a.m. PT, KFC Yum! Center (Louisville, Ky.)
TV: CBS (Verne Lundquist, Jim Spanarkel, Allie LaForce)
Radio: AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Tracy Murray)
Scouting report: UCLA might have earned one of the NCAA Tournament’s most surprising bids this year, but after one game, the Bruins are set up as a favorite to reach their second straight Sweet 16.
It certainly helps that this is the team’s second time drawing a double-digit seed in the round of 32. The Bruins dispatched 12th-seeded Stephen F. Austin without much drama in 2014, and could do the same to 14th-seeded Blazers on Saturday in Louisville.
The two rosters look quite different, but there is one similarity between SFA and UAB: offensive rebounding. Last year’s Lumberjacks squad was ranked 12th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage, while the Blazers will enter the KFC Yum! Center tomorrow at No. 71 in the country. UAB isn’t particularly intimidating otherwise. According to kenpom.com, it ranks outside the national top 240 in effective field goal percentage (47.4) and turnover percentage (20.4).
The team’s biggest key might be freshman William Lee, a former Alabama Mr. Basketball who was hampered by a knee injury early this season and didn’t play against UCLA during the Battle 4 Atlantis’ seventh-place game — a contest that the Bruins took by 12 points and led for all by 22 seconds. Now healthy, Lee is averaging 13.0 and 7.3 rebounds in his last eight games, and his team is 5-2 when he grabs double-digit rebounds.
Lee also pairs with point guard Nick Norton as two of UAB’s more dangerous threats from outside. The former has hit 19 of 43 from beyond the arc, and is the only player on the team shooting above 40 percent there. The latter has hit 55 of 143, slightly behind leading scorer Robert Brown (56 of 176) in volume but comfortably ahead in accuracy.
Norton takes an absurd 84.2 percent of his field goals from 3-point range.
Opposing player to watch: On Friday, UAB coach Jerod Haase was asked how drastically he changed the roles of some of his players this season. “When I told certain guys that you will not shoot any more threes, it’s about as drastic as you can get,” he responded.
The best example of that is sophomore Tyler Madison, who grabbed a career-high nine offensive rebounds in his team’s upset of Iowa State on Thursday. Continue reading
The NCAA Tournament’s Saturday schedule will start with UCLA vs. UAB.
The No. 11-seed Bruins will tip off against the 14th-seeded Blazers at 9:10 a.m. PT at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, with the broadcast set on CBS. The two teams both won 60-59 on Thursday, defeating sixth-seeded SMU and third-seeded Iowa State, respectively.
This will be only the fifth-ever matchup between No. 11 and No. 14 seeds. The former has won all of those meetings, and each by at least 13 points.
Of course, UCLA already beat UAB by 12 points in November, winning the seventh-place game at the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas.
– UCLA is just one game away from its second Sweet 16, thanks to a thriller over SMU in Louisville.
– Bryce Alford’s game-saving shot against SMU came exactly 20 years after Tyus Edney’s 4.8-second dash against Missouri. “I was saying, this day is magical for the Bruins,” Edney told columnist Mark Whicker.
Kevon Looney donned his new mask against SMU, the fully transparent version protecting his still-healing facial fracture. The freshman forward finished 3 of 8 from the field for six points in the 60-59 win, but grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds to go along with an assist and a steal.
“Still getting used to it,” Looney said of the mask. “I shot the ball terribly today. Airballed a three. But I’m still doing everything else, like rebound and make plays and get steals and stuff like that. Shooting will come. I’m real comfortable now.”