The Bruins secured the No. 6 seed in the South Region while the Gophers picked up the 11th seed in Sunday's selection. Both teams are coming into the tournament with a lot to prove, as each squad failed to get the job done in their conference's tournaments.
In the first round of the Big Ten tournament, the Gophers were eliminated by Illinois in a tough two-point loss. While the Bruins were much more successful in their tournament campaign, they also came up short against the Oregon Ducks in the Pac-12 tournament final.
Friday's game between the Bruins and the Gophers will be one of the must-watch games of this year's second round. Here is everything you need to know about Friday's game.
Where: Austin, Texas at the Frank Erwin Center
When: Friday, March 22 at 9:57 p.m. ET
Betting Lines: Minnesota -3.0 (via Sportsbook)
Who will win this game?
Key Injuries (via USA Today)
G Jordan Adams, UCLA (Out, Foot)
G David Brown, UCLA (Questionable, Ankle)
G Nick Kazemi, UCLA (Out, Knee)
No injuries to report for Minnesota.
What's at Stake?
Both squads have the potential to run the table in this year's tournament. Getting past this matchup will do wonders for the confidence of the victorious squad.
What They're Saying
“I’d rather be closer,” Howland said. “I would rather be. Honestly, I’d rather be Cal right now playing in San Jose. I’d rather be a 12-seed playing in San Jose. Especially for the fans. For Cal, that’s a great situation. They’re playing at home. I’m happy for them.”
"We're really excited about this opportunity to play in the NCAA tournament," Smith said. "It's always a goal of ours. Certainly it's one that you relish and you've got to cherish when you get these opportunities...we know that we haven't played well, but we also know that it's another opportunity for us to measure ourselves and test ourselves against a very good UCLA Bruins team."
Most Important Player to Watch: Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA
The 6'6" freshman forward is putting together a phenomenal season with the Bruins, as he is currently averaging 17.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.
Along with this great production, Muhammad has also been able to fill it up efficiently, shooting a more than respectable 45 percent from the field and 40 percent from behind the arc. With Jordan Adams out, the Bruins will need Muhammad to have himself a monster game. Muhammad will have to shoulder much of the load on offense and if he is able to deliver, could be the key to the Bruins making it out of the second round.
Key Matchup: Minnesota's Rebounding vs. UCLA's Rebounding
The Gophers of Minnesota have been one of the NCAA's top rebounding teams the entire season. Averaging 38.8 rebounds per game, the Gophers rank 17th in the nation in rebounding. Seniors Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams have been a huge reason behind the Gophers' success on the boards as they combine to grab 13.8 rebounds per game.
Although UCLA doesn't possess traditional big men, they do have capable rebounders in Muhammad and Kyle Anderson. This duo has also put up great rebounding numbers, as they average an even better 13.9 rebounds per game.
While Anderson and Muhammad's rebounding averages look good stacked up against the Gophers' pair, rebounding is not a specialty for the Bruins. UCLA is ranked 250th in the country in rebound margin, losing the battle of the boards by an average of 1.9 rebounds every game. Too make matters worse; the Gophers come in eighth in this category dominating their opponents by a margin of 8.2 rebounds.
UCLA will have to make a conscious effort of boxing out and cleaning up the glass for them to come away with a victory. If the Gophers are able to get close to their average rebounding margin, they could very well take home the win.
Prediction: Minnesota 69, UCLA 63
With Adams out of the lineup, UCLA will not have the superior firepower to put Minnesota away. The Bruins will miss Adams' averages of 15.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 2.2 steals dearly and will have a tough time keeping the Gophers off the glass.
Friday's contest will come down to rebounding and the Gophers will dominate in that facet of the game. Expect Minnesota to exert their physicality early and as a result, move on to the third round.