Minnesota quickly became one of the most popular 11-seed over 6-seed upset picks for the NCAA Tournament. A few hours after the brackets were released, ESPN reported that over 70 percent of users submitting picks on their bracket challenge had the Golden Gophers beating the No. 6 seed UCLA Bruins. They’re not the only ones expecting Minnesota to win; Las Vegas has the Gophers favored by three over the Bruins.
Why would a team that went 8-10 in conference be picked to beat a team that won its conference’s regular-season title? It all has to do with the injury to Jordan Adams.
Adams, a freshman guard, was the Bruins’ second-leading scorer at 15.3 points per game. He was injured at the end of UCLA’s 66-64 win over Arizona in the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament Friday night. The team lost to Oregon in the championship game the next day, playing without him for the first time this season.
Adams had been hot prior to breaking a bone in his foot. He scored 20 or more points in four of his last eight games, during which the Bruins went 7-1.
Though the Bruins are weaker without one of their top players, the matchup is not as bad for them as it could be. The Bruins’ weakness is teams that have size. They allowed huge games to 6-foot-10 Brock Motum in a loss to Washington State; 7-foot-2 Jordan Bachynski in a loss to Arizona State, and they were beaten on the interior in an overtime loss to USC in January. Minnesota’s top big man is 6-foot-8 senior forward Trevor Mbakwe, who will probably have a big game. 6-foot-11 center Elliott Eliason only averages 13.6 minutes per game, but he could see a boost in action in the team’s first-round matchup.
Minnesota started off the season 15-1 after recording wins over Michigan State, and Pac-12 teams Stanford and USC. They lost their last three games and are trending in the wrong direction.
The NCAA Tournament committee admitted that the Adams injury led them to place UCLA a line lower in seeding than they would have otherwise. Though UCLA is facing challenges without Adams, I don’t think this matchup is as bad for them as it could be.Google+