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Ben Rajavuori shares his favorite play from UCLA vs Akron. Can Akron keep it close or will this be a UCLA blowout?
ANALYSIS

UCLA vs Akron Prediction: Can Akron Keep it Close?

Akron won the MAC Tournament this year, and it earned them a thirteen seed and the chance to take on UCLA in the first round of the big dance. UCLA got an at-large bid to the tournament after a successful season in the PAC 12 conference, going 15-5 in conference play and beating one-seed Arizona in the process. Akron also played well, going 14-6 in conference play. Akron has won eight straight games and covered seven of those. Can Akron stay hot and cover this 13.5-point spread?

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UCLA vs Akron Prediction

Many people, including myself, have UCLA moving on to the second round over Akron, and for a good reason too. UCLA is one of only four teams in the tournament that rank inside the top fifteen in the nation in both offensive and defensive efficiency. UCLA also made the Final Four last year and was an overtime session with Gonzaga away from making it to the championship. They return every starter from that same team for this year's tournament. UCLA is also winning it all in most of my brackets and is my favorite pick to make the final four. Still, considering all that, I like Akron to cover the spread in this one.

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Akron is a team that I think is a little overlooked in this spot. Akron started the year with an impressive one-point loss to Ohio State on the road, and it was no fluke. Akron is led by talented point guard Xavier Castenada but is supported by potential future NBA players Ali Ali and Enrique Freeman. Ali, a 6'8" sophomore, leads the team in scoring with 14.2 points per game and averages over 40% from three. Freeman, a 6'7" sophomore, shoots an insane 66% from inside the arc (ninth in the nation) and pulls down 10.8 boards per game. This is a talented offense with multiple guys who can score.

UCLA has all the components to make it far this year. They play tight defense, have multiple scoring options, take care of the ball, and crash the boards. There's not any single thing that the Bruins really suck at. Part of that is how this same team made it to the Final Four last year. Every starter and supporting player from that team is back to repeat the run this year.

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Some of those include future NBA player and leading scorer Johnny Juzang and Jaime Jaquez. Four starters for UCLA are currently averaging scoring over double digits every game. This talented Bruins team has only been dogs four times the entire season, once against Gonzaga and three times against Arizona, one of which they won outright. Both teams are one seeds in the tournament. Still, as impressive as this is, I think Akron can cover.

This year, Akron is 7-2 on the road as an underdog and has won eight straight games. They are hot at the right time, and getting nearly fourteen points is a lot. UCLA can still win this game easily and make their run to the Final Four, but I think this one stays in the higher single digits. Akron has the talent to score and keep up with UCLA, but they also get to the line frequently. Akron can stay within double digits from the line single-handedly in this game. So while I have UCLA going to the Final Four to avenge their loss to Gonzaga last year, I like Akron to keep this one somewhat competitive. Thirteen-and-a-half is too many for this overlooked Zips squad.

UCLA vs Akron Line Movement

UCLA vs Akron Pick

Article Author

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Ben Rajavuori is a handicapper out of Minneapolis, MN. He has been creating sports content for almost four years now and is an expert in all things NFL, MLB, NBA, UFC, and NCAAB. Ben thrives on diving deep into statistics to find the best angle on every bet. You can follow him on Twitter @WeBeatTheSpread.

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