Game Time: 9:40 PM EST, March 19th
Location: Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, California
#6 Cincinnati Bearcats (30-5 Overall, 16-2 AAC)
The Bearcats are built on the reliable foundation of defense. This has been their formula for success all season long. They smother ball handlers with constant pressure, leading to easy baskets at the other end. Strong defense has allowed Cincinnati to enjoy a nearly 15+ point scoring margin over opponents on average.
Despite an offense that often lacks consistent scoring, the Bearcats can still take pride in a lineup with six players that average more than eight points a game.
Jacob Evans, Jarron Cumberland, and Kevin Johnson round out Cincinati’s top three scorers. Any one of them is capable of carrying the offensive load on a given night.
Tight games could work against the Cats if they are forced to hold a lead from the foul line. Kevin Johnson shoots above 80%, while the majority of the team toils well below the 70% mark.
#3 UCLA Bruins (30-4 Overall, 15-3 Pac-12)
The Bruins have been one of the more exciting watches in men’s college basketball all season. With four players averaging nearly 15 ppg and six players above double digits, UCLA can hit you from anywhere on the floor.
Lonzo Ball spearheads this lightning-paced offensive attack. Some former NBA players-turned-analysts have even compared Ball to Jason Kidd, ridiculously high praise coming from people who played the game and know what it takes to be successful.
The Bruins present multiple challenges for opposing defenders. Not only are they more than willing to get out in transition at any time, but they also connect on more than 40% of their three-point attempts. Bryce Alford leads the team in made baskets from distance.
UCLA could be vulnerable, though. Lonzo Ball entered the tournament with concerns of an injured thumb, and then suffered a bone bruise on his hip getting undercut against Kent State. His health will be an utmost priority heading into Sunday.
This will undoubtedly be the best offense the Cincinnati defense has faced all year. The good news for the Bearcats is that the Bruins can be exploited when trying to defend. They will need their best offensive effort of the season if they expect to stay competitive. If they control the pace and keep close throughout, they will have a great opportunity to stun UCLA.
Cincinnati Bearcats 74, UCLA Bruins 72