South Region: UC Irvine vs Kansas State Prediction
UC Irvine vs Kansas State Preview
Winners of 16 consecutive games, with an average margin of victory of 14.3 points the UC Irvine Anteaters (30-5) are a popular upset pick and for good reason. But they will need a lot better showing than they had a season ago when these teams met in non-conference play.
K-State defeated UC Irvine 71-49 last season at Bramlage Coliseum. Wildcats guard Bobby Brown isn’t taking that result or anything for granted:
“I respect them,” Brown said. “They have 30 wins this year they are a good team. It is all about respecting them and understanding they have everyone back from last year. We just got to go into the game understanding they could beat us and it is all about surviving and advancing, win or go home, do everything right. So we have to be ready to play.”
K-State put on a defensive clinic, holding all 11 UC Irvine players who saw action below double digits. Center Brad Greene, who hasn’t played this season, came off the bench to lead UC Irvine with nine points.
The Wildcats made their living at the three-point line, making 9 of 19 perimeter shots. But they struggled from two-point range, going 15 for 42.
Who has UC Irvine played?
This question is asked all the time about mid-major programs that aren’t well-known come tourney time.
The vast majority of UC Irvine’s wins came against other mid-majors, but they did beat Texas A&M in November, as well as NCAA Tournament teams Montana and Saint Mary’s. An argument could be made this team was underseeded. It has a KenPom rating of 75, which is better than at-large teams Temple and St. John’s.
The Anteaters are averaging 72.3 points, while making 45.5 percent of their shots from the field and 35.3 percent of their shots from three. But they can score in bunches. They reached 92 points in the Big West Tournament final and beat Cal Poly 110-72. Their season-low of 54 points came during a December loss at Butler. Junior guard Max Hazzard (12.5 points) is the team’s leading scorer.
Sadly, there isn’t a real update we can provide concerning KSU’s Dean Wade‘s availability. But the all-conference performer will likely miss at least this first round matchup against the Anteaters.
If Wade is unable to go, Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber does not know his starting lineup.
LINE: -5 Kansas State
Dan’s Bet: Over 119
Bracket Pick: UC Irvine
Score Prediction: UC Irvine 69 Kansas State 65