Tonight, the UCLA Bruins begin their Road to the Final Four when they face the Akron Zips at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon. Tip-off is set for approximately 6:50 pm PT and the game will air on TBS.
While Akron finished tied for third in the MAC regular season standings, the Zips defeated regular season champ Toledo in the MAC Tournament semifinals, 70-62. They went on to crush 2nd-seeded Kent State, 75-55, in the championship game to win the tournament and earn the conference’s automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament.
The Zips are led by John Groce. Groce previously led both Ohio and Illinois to the NCAA Tournament. He took Ohio to the Second Round in his first trip and to the Sweet 16 in 2011-12. The next year, after taking over at Illinois, he led the Fightin’ Illini to the Second Round. This is the first time he has taken Akron to the Tournament.
The Zips’ 24-9 record appears to be a little deceiving. Akron only played one ranked team all season and that was Ohio State in early December and they narrowly lost that game, 67-66. Besides that game, it’s hard to know just how good the Zips really are.
Akron features three players which are all averaging in double figures. Sophomore forward Ali Ali leads the team with an average of 14.2 ppg while junior guard Xavier Castaneda isn’t far behind with an average of 13.5 ppg. Sophomore Enrique Freeman, the other starting forward, is the third guy in double figures. He averages 13.2 ppg.
Freeman is the team’s leading rebounding. His 10.8 rebounds per game means that you can expect him to put up a double-double each game. Hopefully, Miles Johnson brings his A game tonight to defend Freeman because he is not an outside shooter. He has only taken 3 shots from beyond the arc all season long and he made none of them. Don’t expect him to try.
On the other hand, Ali is the team’s best guy, percentage-wise, from downtown. He is shooting 41.2% from three-point range, but Ali doesn’t take as many shots from long-range as Castenada, who leads the Zip in 3-point attempts with 194 and 3-pointers made with 74. So, while his 37.6 3-point percentage is lower than Ali, he will be the guy shooting from three most often.
Akron does have another guy averaging more than 10 points per game, but Brian Trimble, Jr. has not played since mid-February due to what coach Groce calls a “leave of absence,” according to the Akron Beacon Journal.
The two remaining starters are Greg Tribble and Mikal Dawson. Both of these guards are sophomores. Tribble typically adds 7.3 ppg while Dawson averages 6.0 ppg. Each of them is getting about 24 or 25 minutes of playing time per game.
It’s hard to believe that this game will be close, but the Zips stand between the Bruins and their ultimate goal of winning the national championship. So, they have to approach this game seriously. While Akron has won 24 games, they’ve only played one ranked team all season.
On paper, this game looks to be a piece of cake. At the same time, Richmond beat Iowa today. As a result, Bruin fans need to hope the team shows up to play tonight. If they do, they should take care of business easily and win by at least 20 points.
TuneIn.com now has UCLA’s games listed as “premium” content. So, rather than using TuneIn, you can just listen through the official website like we have done with the small sports for a long time in order to listen to Josh Lewin and Tracy Murray call tonight’s game. Tonight’s game is on TBS with Andrew Catalon, Steve Lappas and Andy Katz calling the game. If you don’t want listen to them on TV and prefer to listen to Lewin and Murray, just be sure to right-click on it so that you can open up another tab and have it going while you chat in the comments below. Listen to today’s game online.
In the meantime, here’s how to watch tonight’s game:This is your UCLA Bruins vs. Akron Zips 2022 NCAA Tournament First Round game thread.
Teams: 13-seed Akron Zips (24-9) vs. 4-seed UCLA Bruins (25-7)
Series Record: First meeting
When: 6:50 pm PT, Thursday, March 17, 2022
Where: Moda Arena, Portland, OR
TV: TBS with Andrew Catalon, Steve Lappas, and Andy Katz
Live Stream: MarchMadness.com and the March Madness Live app
Radio: AM 570 in Los Angeles with Josh Lewin and Tracy MurrayWestwood One: Ryan Radtke and Dan Dickau
Satellite Radio: Sirius Ch. 137 & XM Ch. 204
Live Stats: NCAA.com
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