We are guaranteed at least one double-digit seed in the Sweet 16 of the 2021 NCAA Tournament, with the No. 14 Abilene Christian Wildcats and No. 11 UCLA Bruins both pulling upsets past favored teams to advance to the second round.
They’ll face off at 5:15 p.m. on Monday, March 22nd from Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, with the game broadcast on TBS.
No. 14 Abilene Christian: 24-4 (13-2 Southland)
First round result: Defeated No. 3 Texas 53-52
KenPom rating: 80 Overall, 164 Offense, 24 Defense
NET ranking: 74 (1-2 vs. Quad 1)
Leading scorer: Kolton Kohl (12.3 ppg)
Key stat: Abilene forces a turnover on 27% of opponent possessions, the best rate in Division I.
While plenty of people will look at 18 offensive rebounds as the reason while ACU won the biggest game in school history on Saturday night over Texas, it’s the 23 turnovers they forced that were the real key. Head coach Joe Golding has built and entire program on defensive responsibility and intensity, and it shows in how the Wildcats play.
There are only three double-digit per-game scorers for Abilene, but when more than one-quarter of the time you make your opponent give the ball away before they get a shot, you’ve made the math of basketball work in your favor.
Now can they guard Johnny Juzang with this level of efficiency is the question.
First round result: Defeated No. 6 BYU 73-62
KenPom rating: 33 Overall, 12 Offense, 82 Defense
NET ranking: 46, (4-6 vs. Quad 1)
Leading scorer: Johnny Juzang (14.5 ppg)
Key stat: The Bruins turn it over on 16.2% of possessions.
Juzang was brilliant against the Cougars, scoring 27 points on 10-16 from the floor in a virtuoso performance. BYU did everything allowed by law to keep the 6-6 sophomore in check, from fronting to ball denial to doubling when he had it. But it was to no avail, as Juzang’s teammates played off his creativity perfectly.
UCLA was 8-19 from three-point range and when added to their 9-18 against Michigan State, they’re shooting with a hot hand currently. Look for ABU to attempt to swarm and disrupt, forcing other Bruins such as Jaime Jaquez and Jules Bernard make plays.
March Madness Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook
Point spread: UCLA -5
Point total: 132.5
Moneyline: UCLA -220, Abilene Christian +180
This should be a close one, but ABU showed last night they can guard major-conference athletes effectively and force bigger teams out of their offense. Juzang’s brilliance will force ABU to overplay him in some places, but their ability to recover will be the key. It’s should be an intriguing matchup, if not a high-scoring one.
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