Minnesota catching UCLA at right time
MINNEAPOLIS — Since the matchup was announced on Sunday, the Minnesota men's basketball team liked the draw it received in its first NCAA tournament game against UCLA.
The absence of Jordan Adams for the Bruins might have something to do with that.
Adams, a 6-foot-5 freshman guard, suffered a broken foot in the Pac-12 semifinal game Friday against Arizona. It happened on the final play of the game — a 66-64 win for the Bruins — but not before Adams scored 24 points and added four rebounds, two assists and two steals to help lead his team to victory.
Without Adams, UCLA lost the Pac-12 title game against Oregon the following day. Now, the Bruins must figure out a way to compensate for the loss of their second-leading scorer when they face the 11th-seeded Gophers in the NCAA tournament on Friday.
Gophers coach Tubby Smith said he's confident UCLA will still be competitive without Adams.
"They have other people that can step in and have done a good job," Smith said Tuesday. "Those guys that were not playing much, this is a great opportunity for them."
Because of Adams' injury, Minnesota is actually favored by three points despite being the lower seed, one of just two lower seeds favored by oddsmakers in the first round of the tournament. That comes despite the fact UCLA finished ranked No. 24 in the AP top 25 poll and the Gophers were not even receiving votes.
Come tournament time, the loss of one player can make a world of difference. The loss of Adams couldn't have come at a worse time for UCLA.
"This is bad for us," Bruins freshman Shabazz Muhammad told the Orange County Register after Adams suffered a broken foot. "We're going to the tournament, and we were feeling really confident. This is terrible."
Though Muhammad is UCLA's leading scorer, Adams was an equally adept weapon on offense. He scored a season-high 26 points in just his second college game — a one-point overtime win against UC Irvine — and surpassed 20 points in each of his first four games.
Adams was also the Bruins' best free-throw shooter, as he connected on 84.3 percent of his attempts from the line. Now UCLA won't have his consistency at the free-throw line if the Bruins need to make key free throws down the stretch against the Gophers.
"I'm sure that's why a lot of people are looking at it and say, ‘Well, Minnesota may have a chance because of that,' " Smith said. "But they've got a very talented team."
Muhammad averaged 17.8 points for the Bruins this year. After Adams' 15.3 points per game, only Travis Wear (11.2 ppg) averaged in double figures. But Kyle Anderson scored 9.8 points per game for UCLA, and the Bruins also have several other scoring options.
One of the Bruins' big flaws is that they lack depth off the bench. With Adams healthy, UCLA had seven players average at least 20 minutes per game. That meant rest of the bench rarely saw the court.
Now with Adams sidelined, Bruins coach Ben Howland essentially has a six-man rotation, meaning someone else will have to fill the void left by Adams' injury.
"It's just like any team. You've got guys that maybe … are not getting in the game as much as they hoped. Now that's a good opportunity for them," Smith said. They're a solid team with or without (Adams)."
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