Minnesota ranks eighth in the country in rebounding margin. UCLA ranks 251st. On paper, it’s a tremendous advantage, and one reason the No. 11-seed Gophers are widely considered favorites over the sixth-seeded Bruins on Friday night.
But forward Travis Wear, who will be tasked with some low-post defensive duties, isn’t too worried about the opposition.
Minnesota’s Trevor Mbakwe is a 6-foot-8, 245-pound forward who led the Big Ten in rebounding. Wear said that the team had already been “battle-tested” against the big men in Pac-12, adding that he had more trouble against slower 7-footers such as Arizona State’s Jordan Bachynski and Washington’s Aziz N’Diaye. Continue reading
No. 6 UCLA (25-9) vs. No. 11 Minnesota (20-12)
Tipoff: 6:57 p.m. PT, Frank Erwin Center (University of Texas at Austin)
Conference play: The Golden Gophers opened the season 15-1 and 3-0 in the Big Ten, but have lost 11 of their 16 games since. Minnesota finished in a three-way tie for seventh in the conference alongside Illinois, a seven-seed, and Purdue, which did not make the field of 68. The Gophers lost in the first round of the Big Ten tournament, falling 51-49 to the Illini.
Coach: Tubby Smith is one of the most well-known coaches in college basketball, but hasn’t replicated the success he had at Kentucky. He began his career in Lexington with an NCAA title in 1998, and reached three Elite Eights and two Sweet Sixteens before resigning in 2007 due to public pressure and dissatisfaction.
Minnesota will be making its third NCAA appearance in six years under Smith, and are looking for their first victory after two double-digit losses in the first round. Continue reading