(13) UC Irvine vs (12) Oregon
Time: 8:40 PM CST (TBS)
Spread: ORE -5
Odds c/o 5dimes
UC Irvine rolled through the regular season with a 31-5 record including a 15-1 record in Big West play. The Anteaters closed the season with 18 consecutive wins and carried that hot streak into its first-round matchup with Kansas State. The Anteaters shot 44 percent from the field in the win, hitting 9 of 23 from three and 17 of 19 from the free throw line. Despite 14 turnovers and a negative-1 differential on the boards, the Anteaters were able to emerge as it held K-State to just 37 percent shooting and 29 percent three-point shooting. It also forced 13 turnovers and held the K-State bench to 3 of 12 shooting while getting 19 points from its own reserves, with 11 of those coming from forward Elston Jones.
The Anteaters start a backcourt of Max Hazzard and Evan Leonard which willed it to victory, with the pair combining for 38 points on 9 of 21 combined shooting. The Anteaters possess a top-20 defense that limited opponents to just 63.3 points during the season while the Anteaters averaged 72.8 itself. Hazzard and Leonard were its top scorers in the regular season at 12.7 and 11.3 points per game, respectively, but the pair seems up to the task of turning it on for this tournament as it scored 14 more than their collective average this season. Both shoot 40 percent or better from three, and UC Irvine shot 36 percent as a team on 660 attempted triples this season.
Oregon was supposed to be headlined by Bol Bol, son of NBA legend Manute Bol. But Bol sustained an injury that has left him off the court since early December. He will not play in this tournament, and he is expected to be a high NBA draft pick, putting an end to his career at Oregon after just nine games played. Instead, Oregon was reliant on a trio of Louis King, Payton Prichard, and Paul White. All three averaged double figures for the Ducks, who tallied a 70.5 point per game average as a team.
Oregon is one of the better defensive teams in the tournament, ranking No. 17 nationally and holding opponents to just 62.9 points per game. It used that defense to defeat Washington badly in the Pac-12 title game, holding Washington to just 48 points and winning by 20. In fact, Oregon has held four of its last five opponents under 60 points, and it ended the season with eight straight wins.
Oregon defeated #5 Wisconsin easily in the first round, rolling to a 72-54 victory. Point guard Payton Prichard had a huge game, shooting 8 of 18 from the field and hitting a lot of key shots that thwarted Wisconsin’s runs. Oregon shot 54.9 percent in the game while knocking down an efficient 7 of 15 from downtown. The Ducks were outrebounded in the game and committed 12 turnovers, but it held Wisconsin to just 33 percent shooting and did a good job of taking Ethan Happ out of the game (only 10 FGA). Oregon’s defense should be a different maker in this one, and it did a tremendous job on guard Dmitrick Trice in the win over Wisconsin. It will need that same type of defense to limit Hazzard and Leonard in Round 2.
ATS TRENDS (C/o Covers):