The final day of the second round is here and the action is heating up, especially for the East Region. Michigan-LSU is set to be a fantastic game, with an upset looming, while Florida State-Colorado is the only 4-5 matchup of the season. Add that to Alabama, and three double-digit seeds, and the East Region is set up for Madness. Let’s dive into the matchups.
11.UCLA vs. 14.Abilene Christian
5:15 PM ET on TBS
The UCLA Bruins are in the Second Round for the first time since 2017 and first in the Mick Cronin era. The Bruins have gotten here by winning back-to-back games against Michigan State and BYU. The JJ duo of Jaime Jaquez and Johnny Juzang have each had their big games respectively. The Bruins have done a good job getting those two the ball and letting them work.
As for Abilene Christian, defense and toughness are the keys to their run. Abilene Christian runs 9 deep and is a small team size-wise. Kolton Kohl is a solid 7’0 big man, Joe Pleasant is the most recent hero because of his free throws against Texas, and Reggie Miller does all the x-factor things needed to win.
The key to this game will be the turnover battle. Abilene Christian forced 22 turnovers against Texas and that was able to get them by. For them to win, they probably will need 20 turnovers again. I think UCLA will be able to avoid hitting that number and in turn, I expect them to win going away.
Prediction: UCLA 67 Abilene Christian 55
1.Michigan vs. 8.LSU
7:10 PM ET on CBS
The Michigan Wolverines are the top seed in the region but that comes with a major price to pay. Isaiah Livers is out indefinitely due to a foot injury and that is a major cause for concern. Hunter Dickinson is dominant inside, his size and post moves are tough to beat. Mike Smith and Eli Brooks are very good at the guard spot, while Franz Wagner is an elite two-way wing.
For LSU, the motto is score, score, score. Cam Thomas is an elite bucket getter. Trendon Watford and Javonte Smart lead a strong guard-big tandem, while the rest of the roster is filled with solid role pieces.
The key to this game will be the matchups at the 4-5 positions. Dickinson can dominate inside but if LSU can double and make him kick out that’s a major advantage for them. Meanwhile, Watford and Days both can step out and shoot, forcing Dickinson and Johns’ to guard in space. I’m rolling with Michigan to win a very tight game, in the end, I just don’t trust LSU to get enough stops.
Prediction: Michigan 79 LSU 76
4.Florida State vs. 5.Colorado
7:45 PM ET on TBS
The first 4-5 matchup of the NCAA Tournament will see a mixture of styles. Florida State is doing what they always do. They have depth and length for days, the defensive versatility and physicality are hard to match. The scoring is questionable at best, the 0 made threes against UNC Greensboro is cause for concern and the Seminoles don’t have a true go-to guy, it’s basically just whoever is hit.
Colorado has an elite floor-general in McKinley Wright IV, who is a walking double-double (points and assists). They combine him with good shooters in Jabari Walker, D’Shawn Schwartz, and Eli Parquet, who all are good shooters. Add in Evan Battey inside and you have a good Colorado roster.
Don’t expect Colorado to go 16-25 in this game, Florida State is a better defensive team and they won’t get beat off the dribble forcing doubles and open three-point attempts. That said, Colorado can absolutely win, they have the best player on the court and are a good team. I will take Florida State but I’m expecting a down-to-the-wire game.
Prediction: Florida State 66 Colorado 64
2.Alabama vs. 10.Maryland
8:45 PM ET on TNT
The memo to save the best for last was clearly missed by the NCAA, this game will be a sleepwalk. Alabama is an elite basketball team capable of winning the National Championship. They are elite defensively, they are elite shooting the basketball and they are extremely analytically sound. Herb Jones does it all, while John Petty Jr, Jaden Shackelford, and Jahvon Quinerly are capable of going off on any night.
Maryland has had a decent season, I’m not sure many expected them to make the NCAA Tournament but here they are. Darryl Morsell is an awesome defender capable of shutting down anyone. Eric Ayala and Aaron Wiggins are good scorers that can keep Maryland in this game if they get hot.
At the end of the day, Alabama is too good. They will be able to attack the paint if they aren’t making shots. They will also likely not have back-to-back off nights shooting as well. If worst things come to worst, they are elite defensively and can get points due to Maryland incompetence. Give me the Tide in an R1-route.
Prediction: Alabama 79 Maryland 62