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No. 2 UCLA vs. No. 15 UNC-Asheville preview for March Madness First Round matchup

No. 2 UCLA and No. 15 UNC Asheville face off in the First Round of the 2023 NCAA tournament. We’ve got an initial preview of the game and how to watch.

Tyger Campbell #10 of the UCLA Bruins reacts after scoring and drawing a foul against the Arizona Wildcats in the first half of the championship game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on March 11, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Wildcats defeated the Bruins 61-59. Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The NCAA Tournament begins on Tuesday, March 14th with the First Four, and then moves on to the First Round on Thursday, March 16 and Friday, March 17. The No. 2 seed UCLA Bruins will face the No. 15 seed UNC Asheville Bulldogs.

Here’s an early look at what we can expect from the matchup.

Game date: Thursday, March 16
Game time: 9:55 p.m. ET
TV channel: TruTV
Location: Sacramento, CA

Odds: UCLA -19.5

No. 2 UCLA

UCLA is officially on its revenge tour. After bowing out of last year’s NCAA Tournament at the hands of an upset loss to North Carolina, the Bruins were a nearly unstoppable force this year, going 27-4 in the regular season to earn the top seed in the Pac-12. The Bruins closed the season on a 10-game winning streak that featured a dominant win over No. 8 Arizona.

That win over the Wildcats proved to be costly for the Bruins, however, as junior guard Jaylen Clark suffered a foot injury that has put the rest of his season in jeopardy. Before getting hurt, Clark was averaging 13 points, six rebounds and 1.9 assists per game, and was a key contributor in the Bruins’ rotation. With Clark out, guards Jamie Jaquez Jr. (17.5 PPG) and Tyger Campbell (12.9 PPG, 4.7 APG) will need to shoulder more of the scoring burden, while freshman guard Amari Bailey should see more time in the Bruins lineup.

Record: 29-5, 18-2 Pac-12
Coach: Mick Cronin
Qualifier: At-large
KenPom overall: 2
KenPom adjusted offensive efficiency: 25
KenPom adjusted defensive efficiency: 1
Pace: 230
PPP overall: 1.073
Leading scorer: Jaime Jaquez Jr.
NET: 3
Quad 1 record: 8-5
Against The Spread: 20-12-2

No. 15 UNC Asheville

The No. 1 seed in the Big South Tournament, UNC Asheville secured an automatic bid in the 2023 NCAA Tournament by storming back from 14 points down to defeat Campbell 77-73 in the conference’s championship game.

The Bulldogs are led on offense by Tennessee transfer Drew Pember, who was named Big South player of the year after averaging 21.2 points per game this season. The Bulldogs backcourt is led by fifth-year senior Jajion Jones, who scored 16 points in the final 7:35 of the title game to help lead the UNC Asheville comeback.

Record: 25-7, 16-2 Big South
Coach: Mike Morrell
Qualifier: Automatic
KenPom overall: 146
KenPom adjusted offensive efficiency: 196
KenPom adjusted defensive efficiency: 115
Pace: 121
PPP overall: 1.023
Leading scorer: Drew Pember
NET: 140
Quad 1 record: 1-2
Against The Spread: 18-13-1
Over Total: 16-16-0
Odds to win NCAA Championship: +XXX