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No. 4 UCLA vs. No. 13 Akron: Preview, picks for first round of 2022 NCAA Tournament

The UCLA Bruins and Akron Zips meet at the Moda Center in the first round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament. We’ve got everything you need on both teams ahead of the game here.

The No. 4 seed UCLA Bruins made an entertaining run to the Final Four that ended in heartbreak last season, and will look to get back starting with a first round matchup against the No. 13 Akron Zips. The game will take place at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon on Thursday, March 17th at 9:50 p.m. ET and can be seen on TBS. The Bruins are double-digit favorites heading into this matchup on DraftKings Sportsbook.

No. 4 UCLA: 25-7 (15-5 Pac-12): At-Large

KenPom rating: 8 Overall, 15 Offense, 12 Defense
NET ranking: 10, (5-4 VS Quad 1)
Leading scorer: Johnny Juzang (16 ppg)
Key stat: UCLA has a 1.5 assist/turnover ratio, which is No. 8 in the country.

The Bruins are an incredibly balanced team as they rate inside the top 15 in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. Leading scorer Johnny Juzang missed a few games but returned for the regular season finale and played 39 minutes in the Pac-12 title game, so he should be ready to go. Watch for UCLA to use length to their advantage as four of their top 5 players in terms of minutes played are at least 6-foot-7.

No. 13 Akron: 24-9 (14-6 MAC): Auto Bid

KenPom rating: 131 Overall, 113 Offense, 166 Defense
NET ranking: 127 (0-2 VS Quad 1)
Leading scorer: Ali Ali (14.2 ppg)
Key stat: Top two scorers Ali Ali and Xavier Castaneda combined to make 39% of their 3-pointers this season.

The Akron Zips ran through the MAC with eight straight wins — three to get to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2012-13 season. Head coach John Groce has taken a MAC team to the Sweet 16 before with Ohio back in 2012, but the Zips will get a tough test right off the bat against UCLA, a Final Four team last season. Watch for Akron to try and get to the rim as they rank No. 33 in free throw attempts per game nationally.

Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook

Point spread: UCLA -13.5
Point total: 128.5
Moneyline: UCLA -1250, Akron +750

The Pick

Against The Spread Pick: Akron +13.5
Point total pick: Under 128.5
Pick to Win: UCLA

It’s hard to find the angle or stat where Akron could have an advantage in this matchup, but they play at such a slow pace that it could be tough for UCLA to pull away for a substantial lead. The Bruins battled through some injuries this season, but they should win this one with ease, but Akron ranks No. 345 in possessions per game, so I’m all about the under as well even with a low total.

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