Austin, TX (Sports Network) - The final tip-off of the second round of the
2013 NCAA Tournament will take place on Friday night between the 11th-seeded
Minnesota Golden Gophers and the sixth-seeded UCLA Bruins at the Erwin Center.
The winner will advance to the South Region's third round on Sunday to play
either third-seeded Florida or 14th-seeded Northwestern State.
Minnesota backed into the tournament with three straight losses, most recently
falling at the buzzer to Illinois in the first round of the Big Ten Conference
Tournament, 51-49, but its 20-12 record in one of the toughest league's in the
nation, plus its handful of signature wins (Memphis, Michigan State,
Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana) assured it a spot in this field. The Gophers
have made the NCAA Tournament three times in Tubby Smith's six seasons as head
coach. but they have yet to advance to the Round of 32 under Smith.
Despite losing the Pac-12 Conference Tournament title game to Oregon (78-69),
UCLA has pieced together a strong season at 25-9 while winning the Pac-12
regular-season crown outright, although it benefited from playing in a diluted
league this season, with its only quality win outside of conference coming
against Missouri. The Bruins have now made the tournament field seven times in
10 seasons under head coach Ben Howland, and with 45 trips, 100 wins and 11
national championships, they are one of the most decorated teams in NCAA
UCLA leads the all-time series with Minnesota, 5-1, but all five wins came
during the 1960s. The Gophers won most recently, claiming an 80-72 triumph
in an Elite Eight matchup during the 1997 NCAA Tournament.
Like most of its Big Ten brethren, Minnesota had to survive this season by
playing strong at both the offensive (68.4 ppg) and defensive (61.7 ppg) ends
of the court, although in its last 14 games (in which its gone just 5-9), it
has scored 62 points or less 10 times. The Gophers rely on a strong, balanced
starting five, with Andre Hollins (13.9 ppg, 3.4 apg) and Austin Hollins (10.6
ppg, 1.7 spg) manning the perimeter. The pair have been crucial late in games
with impressive free-throw percentages, with both making better than 78
percent of their attempts from the stripe. UM is equally stellar down low,
with Trevor Mbakwe (10.0 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.5 bpg) and Rodney Williams (10.3 ppg,
5.1 rpg, 1.4 bpg) making a difference at both ends. Joe Coleman rounds out the
starting lineup with 8.7 ppg on nearly 48 percent accuracy from the field.
While UCLA hasn't played as well defensively as it would like (68.9 ppg), it
makes up for it by boasting an impressive scoring attack, netting nearly 75
ppg on 45.5 percent from the field. Doing the majority of the damage is
freshman sensation Shabazz Muhammad, who has shown elite scoring ability with
17.8 ppg on 44.7 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range and
70.6 percent from the foul line, although his assist (26) to turnover (50)
ratio suggests something of a selfish streak. Jordan Adams is a great second
option with 15.3 ppg, but his 3-point percentage (.307) leaves much to be
desired. Travis Wear is solid with 11.2 ppg and 5.2 rpg, Kyle Anderson (9.8
ppg, 8.6 rpg, 1.8 spg, 0.9 bpg) is also a factor in the low post, and Larry
Drew II (7.6 ppg, 7.4 apg) is one of the best distributors in the nation.
The Sports Network