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UCLA Bruins guard Johnny Juzang (3). (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)
March 25th, 2022
The eighth-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels will look to pull off another upset in the 2022 NCAA Tournament when they battle the fourth-seeded UCLA Bruins in Friday's Sweet 16 matchup, set for tipoff at 9:39 p.m. ET in Philadelphia.
The defending champion Baylor Bears suffered a second-round exit at the hands of UNC in a chaotic 93-86 overtime win, which marked the third time in program history that North Carolina knocked off a top seed as a No. 8 seed.
Back in 2000, UNC achieved a similar feat over No. 1 seed Stanford and beat a No. 4 seed in the Sweet 16 on its path to the Final Four.
In Saturday's matchup, North Carolina had the benefit of playing an injury-ravaged Baylor squad, which found a way to fight back, despite trailing by 25 points with 10:49 remaining in the second half.
HERE COMES @BaylorMBB 👀Bears go on a 9-0 run #MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/JD5wqO0LpJ— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) March 19, 2022
HERE COMES @BaylorMBB 👀Bears go on a 9-0 run #MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/JD5wqO0LpJ
It all spiraled out of control for UNC after senior forward Brady Manek (26 points) was ejected for a flagrant foul, starting guard Caleb Love fouled out, and Baylor amped up the pressure. North Carolina proceeded to turn the ball over 10 times in Manek and Love's absence, and was forced to play extra minutes to earn a spot in the Sweet 16.
UCLA had a much easier time against No. 5 Saint Mary's, whom Mick Cronin's team beat 72-56 behind 56.5% shooting from the field, including 44.4% from 3.
The Bruins are 22-0 when they shoot 43% or better, and 5-7 when they hit below that mark. North Carolina is 0-6 when opposing teams shoot 51% from the field and ranked 151st in college basketball in field-goal percentage defense (42.8%), but held Marquette and Baylor to below 36% from the field in both of their NCAA Tournament games.
Playing under the radar for much of the year, UNC went on a 5-0 run to close out the regular season but turned in a dud of a performance against ACC Tournament champion Virginia Tech in the conference tournament semifinal.
The Tar Heels seem to have regained their spark in the Big Dance, and present a dangerous challenge for the Bruins, who hope to return to the Final Four for the second straight year under Cronin.
UCLA can't afford many misses against a UNC team that ranks third in the country in defensive rebounding. If the Bruins can't make baskets, the pressure will fall on the defense to keep North Carolina from running up the score. The good news for UCLA is that the Bruins ranks 12th in KenPom's adjusted defensive efficiency ratings and won't turn the ball over on the other end enough to give UNC the opportunity to score fast-break points.
Wow this UCLA defense is something and the parents sitting behind the team's bench are going crazy as Peyton Watson waves his arms. St. Mary's has missed 11 shots in a row, committed three turnovers in the last 5:49 during its scoring drought. Bruins are on an 11-0 run.— Ben Bolch (@latbbolch) March 19, 2022
Wow this UCLA defense is something and the parents sitting behind the team's bench are going crazy as Peyton Watson waves his arms. St. Mary's has missed 11 shots in a row, committed three turnovers in the last 5:49 during its scoring drought. Bruins are on an 11-0 run.
UNC is hot, but UCLA is hotter. The Bruins will hit enough shots to triumph in a grueling back-and-forth battle to send the high-upside Tar Heels packing.
Score prediction: UCLA 74, North Carolina 70
Our predictive engine is calling for UCLA to win outright and for the score to go Over the projected point total.
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