NCAA Tournament Predictions: UCLA vs. Kent State

UCLA guard Lonzo Ball, center, shoots as Oregon forward Dillon Brooks, left, and guard Dylan Ennis defend during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017, in Los Angeles. UCLA won 82-79. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

It’s March Madness, the greatest time of the year. Looking for some help with your bracket? Don’t know which teams to believe in, in this crazy college hoops season? We’ve got your back. We’re breaking down every first-round game in the field of 68, plus looking ahead at which teams will make the run to the Final Four.

3. UCLA (29-4, 15-3/Pac-12)– With a player as talented as Lonzo Ball (his dad thinks he’s better than Steph Curry), shooters like Bryce Alford and Aaron Holiday, and scorers like T.J. Leaf and Isaac Hamilton, this Bruins team is well-equipped for a real run at the Final Four. Ball is a legitimate National Player of the Year candidate, and should be a first-team All-American. The 6-6 freshman is the first of three balling Ball brothers, and his youngest bro LaMelo famously (or infamously) scored 92 points in a high school game this season.

UCLA puts up 90.4 points per game, which is tops in the nation. They share the ball better than anybody else too, averaging 21.5 dimes per. This team can beat anybody in the country, as it proved when it went into Lexington and beat Kentucky, went into Tucson and beat Arizona, and beat Oregon at home. Its only losses came to the Ducks, Wildcats (twice), and USC.

14. Kent State (22-13, 10-8/MAC)– Typically, the MAC champion has a chance to make some noise in the NCAA Tournament, but this is a Kent State team that finished a middling 10-8 in conference, and reached the Big Dance for the first time since 2008 thanks to a four-game run through the MAC tournament, and a stunning 70-65 win over top-seeded Akron in the final.

The Golden Flashes will enter the NCAA’s having won nine of ten games, and has a guy who can put points on the board in 6-8 senior forward Jimmy Hall. Kent State can also hold its own on the glass, ranking 7th in the country in rebounding (40.5 per). But this matchup isn’t conducive to a first-round upset.

PREDICTION: UCLA will roll past the Golden Flashes, and we’ve got them beating Cincinnati, Kentucky (again) and North Carolina on the way to the Final Four.

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