No. 11 St. Bonaventure vs. No. 11 UCLA
Tipoff: 9:10 p.m. Tuesday, University of Dayton Arena, Dayton, Ohio
Announcers: Spero Dedes, Steve Smith, Len Elmore, Ros Gold-Onwude
St. Bonaventure didn't get the draw it was hoping for, but the Bonnies can't complain too much about earning their first NCAA Tournament bid since 2012 and their first at-large bid since 2000. Coach Mark Schmidt and company face a high-scoring and up-tempo UCLA team in the First Four in Dayton, Ohio, with the winner earning the right to play sixth-seeded Florida on Thursday night in Dallas. Can St. Bonaventure, which has won 13 of its last 14 games, end the Bruins' hopes of a fourth Sweet 16 appearance in five years and earn its first NCAA Tournament victory since 1970?
St. Bonaventure got off to a rocky 2-4 start in Atlantic 10 play but turned things around thanks to a 13-game winning streak. The Bonnies run through star guards Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley. Adams, likely a second-round pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, was named the Atlantic 10 co-Player of the Year after averaging 19.8 points and five assists per game. Mobley is close behind with 18.5 points per game and set the school record with 102 three-pointers this season. The Bonnies could be without their third option, Courtney Stockard, who is a game-time decision. He suffered a hamstring injury in St. Bonaventure’s A-10 Tournament quarterfinal win against Richmond, which forced him out of the lineup for the semifinal loss to Davidson. This is the Bonnies’ second trip to UD Arena this season. They fell 82-72 to Dayton in January.
Numbers game: St. Bonaventure
400 miles from Dayton
7th tournament appearance
77.9 points per game
71.0 points allowed per game
UCLA’s main strength is its efficient offense, as the Bruins are slotted 28th in the country in points per game (89.1) and 44th in three-point shooting percentage (a Pac-12 best 38.3 percent). Aaron Holiday is the focal point, averaging a Pac-12-leading 20.3 points per game. The junior point guard has scored 34 points in two of his last three games He’d be the obvious choice for the conference’s player of the year if it weren’t for Arizona superstar DeAndre Ayton. In the interior, keep an eye on Thomas Welsh, who is averaging a double-double with 13 points and 10.7 rebounds. UCLA had a much longer trip and is changing time zones. Coach Steve Alford said there won’t be time for adjustments. “It’s about just being who we are, doing what we do the best and trying to do that the best we can against a very, very good basketball team,” he said.
Numbers game: UCLA
2,203 miles from Dayton
49th tournament appearance
81. 9 points per game
76.3 points allowed per game
The guards on both sides are the main draw. However, if the Bonnies are without Stockard, their second-leading rebounder, UCLA could have the advantage in the post. In that case, 6-6 forward LaDarien Griffin will need to up his game against the Bruins’ bigger front line.
Prediction: UCLA 82, St. Bonaventure 75