With one injury, UCLA went from being a legitimate threat to make a deep tourney run to a team that probably will be a Round of 64 victim against Minnesota.
When UCLA lost second-leading scorer Jordan Adams (15.3 PPG) for the season to a broken foot, a lot of people jumped off the UCLA bandwagon. For good reason—as Peter Yoon of ESPN points out, the loss of Adams hurts UCLA on a number of fronts:
He was a key cog in a Bruins offense that led the Pac-12 in scoring this season, and his injury is largely considered the reason why UCLA dropped to a No. 6 seed and was shipped to Austin—the greatest distance any Pac-12 team has to travel—despite winning the regular-season conference title.
This late in the season, it won’t be easy to replace someone who had that type of impact and court presence. By now, everyone has become accustomed to their roles, and the current lineup got UCLA this far. But with a rotation of only eight players now cut to seven, everyone is going to have a bit of a different role, whether it be an increased workload, added responsibilities on both ends of the floor, a new position or all of the above.
Adams' 73 steals led the Pac-12 this year as well, so his presence on the defensive side of the floor will be missed. This was a huge loss, no two ways about it.
Minnesota isn't chopped liver, either. The Golden Gophers are battled-tested in the brutal Big Ten and have quality wins over Memphis, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Indiana.
They boast four starters—Andre Hollins, Austin Hollins, Rodney Williams and Trevor Mbakwe—who average double digits. What's more, the team ranks 27th in offensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com.
UCLA could really fill it up before the Adams injury, scoring 74.7 points per game (28th in the nation) and adding 16.1 assists per game (11th in the nation). Before the Adams injury, the high-octane attack of the Bruins would have given most teams headaches.
Now, you have to wonder if the Bruins can keep pace with Minnesota.
Yes, Minnesota limped down the stretch, finishing 5-11 after starting the year 15-1. The team hasn't won away from home in about two months, either. However, UCLA's players have to also be somewhat exhausted after a season full of controversy and inconsistent play.
Which team wins?
If two of the team's three most important players—Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson—weren't freshmen, I would say the Bruins could overcome the Golden Gophers. The talent is there.
However, a complete lack of depth and the inability to simply win games by out-rebounding teams or smothering them defensively is going to do the Bruins in.
With one injury, UCLA's March dreams disappeared. Sometimes, March Madness can just be maddening, huh?
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