March Madness First Four Preview
UCLA vs. St. Bonaventure
UCLA makes its fifth trip to NCAA Tournament in six years and looks to win at least two games for the fourth straight time when it begins play against dangerous St. Bonaventure on Tuesday in the First Four at Dayton, Ohio – in a battle of 11th seeds to open the East Region. The Bruins lost three of their last five games, but gave red-hot Arizona all it could handle before losing in overtime at the Pac-12 semifinals.
St. Bonaventure, which won 13 games in a row before losing to Davidson in the Atlantic-10 semifinals, set a program record for victories in a regular season (24) and is tied with the 1969-70 team that made the Final Four for the most overall (25). The matchup could come down to guard play as both teams boast talented backcourts that can put up plenty of points, dish the ball and drain long-range shots. UCLA’s junior guard Aaron Holiday averages a Pac 12-best 20.3 points, 5.8 assists and drains 43.3 percent from 3-point range, while the senior duo of Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley for the Bonnies combined to score almost 40 per contest and have connected on 177 tries behind the arc between them. The survivor will travel to Dallas where it will take on sixth-seeded Florida in the first round on Thursday.
TV: 9:10 p.m. ET, truTV
ABOUT UCLA (21-11): Holiday was held to 15 points on 5-of-20 shooting from the field by Arizona, but averaged 28.2 points in his previous five games and scored at least 29 five times this season after producing 12.3 per contest as a sophomore. Thomas Welsh, a 7-0 senior, had a big Pac-12 Tournament while averaging 17.5 points along with 14 rebounds in two games and the Bruins will need that again to make a run. Kris Wilkes, a 6-8 guard who was named to the Pac-12’s All-Freshman team, is second on the team in scoring (13.8).
ABOUT ST. BONAVENTURE (25-7): Adams, who also leads the team in assists (5.4), steals (1.5), averages 19.8 points while connecting on 45.7 percent beyond the arc. Mobley made 14 shots from long-range in the A-10 Tournament and boasts 102 of 292 career triples this season while averaging 18.5 points in his second season with the Bonnies. Production in the paint will be needed to open up the perimeter and Courtney Stockard (12.9 points, 6.4 rebounds) along with fellow junior forward LaDarien Griffin (8.7, team-best 6.5 boards) can provide that.
1. UCLA has won 11 NCAA Tournament titles and is making its 49th appearance overall.
2. Adams is sixth in scoring all-time at St. Bonaventure (1,893) and second in 3-pointers (270) – 11 away from the top spot.
3. Bruins freshman G Jaylen Hands averages 10.1 points but has scored in double figures once in his last 10 games.