St. Bonaventure vs UCLA Preview and Prediction [Play-in Game]
St. Bonaventure vs UCLA Preview
It’s not often a West Coast powerhouse faces off against a little known East Coast school. But that is exactly what we have this year as the 11th-seeded UCLA Bruins (22-11) will play fellow No. 11 seed St. Bonaventure Bonnies (25-7) on Tuesday in the East Regional as part of the First Four in Dayton, Ohio. The winner will be the No. 11 seed in the East Region and face No. 6 Florida (20-12) on Thursday in Dallas.
St. Bonaventure is back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012 after securing its first at-large bid since 2000.
It will be UCLA’s first appearance in a play-in game. Crosstown rival USC played in one last season, beating Providence and then defeating Southern Methodist in the first round before losing to Baylor in the second round.
Bonnies coming in hot
St. Bonaventure won 13 consecutive games — including a victory over then-No. 14 Rhode Island last month — before falling to Davidson in an Atlantic 10 Conference tournament semifinal on Saturday.
“We couldn’t be happier. This is a lifelong dream,” said St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt, who took over a program 11 years ago that won only 24 games in the four years before his arrival.
Before their conference tournament loss to Davidson, the last time the Bonnies lost a game was on January 19th, against this same Davidson squad.
UCLA getting hotter?
UCLA enters the tournament on a peak, defeating USC before beating Stanford in a Pac-12 tournament quarterfinal and taking Arizona to overtime before losing.
The Bruins have lost in the Sweet 16 in 2014, 2015 and 2017 under Alford, who has not survived past that round in his 22 years of coaching at the Division I level.
Bonnies experienced backcourt
St. Bonaventure features one of, if not the best backcourt in the nation with two seniors leading the way. Jaylen Adams averages 19.8 points, 3.6 rebounds and 5.4 assists per night while shooting 45 percent from the floor and 46 percent from three-point land. His ‘other-half’ is senior guard Matt Mobley who averages 18.5 points, 5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game.
The Bruins must contain these two if they want any chance of advancing.
Key Players for UCLA
The Bruins are second in the Pac-12 in scoring at 81.9 points per game and lead the conference in rebounding (38.8 per game, including 28.5 defensive rebounds per game) and 3-point field goal percentage (38.3).
Junior guard Aaron Holiday was an All Pac-12 selection averaging a conference best 20.3 points per game while shooting 44.3 percent from the field.
The other player to watch for is Senior post player Thomas Welsh, who ranks second in the Pac-12 in rebounds (10.7 per game). He secured second-team All-Pac-12 honors and is one of five finalists for the 2018 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award.
If Welsh can dominate down-low it could be a long game for the Bonnies.
LINE: -3.5 UCLA
This figures to be a very close game and whoever advances has a legitimate shot to knock out Florida in the first round of the Big Dance. Watching St. Bonaventure all season, they are finally healthy (Jaylen Adams struggled with an ankle injury early-on) and playing all-around great basketball. They fell to Davidson in the A-10 semis but were riding a 13-game winning streak since the middle of January.
UCLA on the other hand, lost their last two regular season games before a solid showing in the Pac-12 Tournament that saw them almost take down Arizona in overtime.
The Bruins have the name-power but I believe it is St. Bonaventure who is the more experienced team and should come out fired up looking to beat a National brand. If you don’t want to bet the Bonnies outright, take the +3.5 points and watch St. Bonaventure advance.
St. Bonaventure 84 UCLA 79