The 2017 NCAA tournament didn’t see major upsets going down left and right in the first couple of rounds (although some surprise teams did emerge, such as the Wisconsin Badgers, South Carolina Gamecocks, and Xavier Musketeers), but that just means fans are about to witness some incredible matchups in the Sweet 16 and beyond.
Enter No. 2 seed Kentucky Wildcats vs. No. 3 seed UCLA Bruins.
Not only are Kentucky and UCLA serious title contenders — that has been the case for quite some time now — but they have already played each other in 2016-17. Needless to say, it was one of the most entertaining contests of the season. When the final whistle was blown, the Bruins had a 97-92 victory on their hands, and they also knocked off the No. 1 team in the country (at the time) in the process.
Fans should be in store for a similar treat — well, at least when it comes to pure entertainment — when Kentucky and UCLA meet up for Round 2.
Just in case you missed the first two rounds of March Madness action, here’s how UCLA and Kentucky made it to the Sweet 16.
The Bruins knocked off No. 14 seed Kent State Golden Flashes in Round 1 and No. 6 seed Cincinnati Bearcats in the round of 32. As for the Wildcats, they took down No. 15 seed Northern Kentucky Norse in their first battle of the tournament and No. 10 seed Wichita State Shockers in the second.
As is typically the case every time Kentucky or UCLA takes the court, but especially when they play one another, talent will absolutely be flooding the court when these teams play in the Sweet 16. While Kentucky’s Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox and UCLA’s Lonzo Ball tend to catch most of the headlines, it wouldn’t be a surprise if other players came up big on this monster stage.
Now that the stage has been set, let’s break down some bold predictions for arguably the most entertaining matchup (well, at least on paper) of the Sweet 16.
Bryce Alford Turns Back The Clock To The 2015 NCAA Tournament
Not everyone was a fan of the UCLA Bruins in the 2015 NCAA tournament — because many people didn’t think they deserved to make the dance in the first place, and they also knocked off the SMU Mustangs via a questionable call — but Bryce Alford still put in a masterful performance against SMU by dropping nine three-pointers in the contest.
While he might not drop nine threes on the Wildcats, look for him to have a similar performance, which will lead to Alford draining in threes for days.
Alford, for all it’s worth, is averaging 15.6 points per game in 2016-17, and he is also shooting 43.3 percent from behind the arc. He had 16 points in the second round and six in the round of 64. All of that aside, look for the Bruin to drop at least five shots from deep on Kentucky.
A Player Not Named Fox Or Monk Drops 20 Huge Points
Monk is leading Kentucky in the scoring department with 20 points per game, and Fox is trailing him at 16.1 points per game. With that in mind, John Calipari-coached teams are known for their talent, and this year’s version of the Wildcats is no different.
As a team, this squad is averaging 85.3 points per game, and two players not named Fox or Monk are putting up double figures in the scoring department.
Nonetheless, in bold prediction fashion, look for an unlikely suspect to come up huge for Kentucky in the Sweet 16 by dropping 20 points.
The First Team To 90 Moves On To The Elite Eight
The UCLA Bruins and Kentucky Wildcats are two of the best teams in the business when it comes to putting the ball into the hoop at a high rate. After all, UCLA is leading the country with 90.2 points per game, and, as stated above, Kentucky is averaging around 85 points per game.
With all of the scoring threats in this Sweet 16 showdown, fans could be in store for a high-scoring affair, and that is where the third prediction comes into play. The first team to 90 points will capture the 2017 NCAA tournament victory and will move on to the Elite Eight in the process.
The winner will go on to play the winner of the North Carolina vs. Butler matchup, and fans can thank the NCAA tournament committee for that soon-to-be gem.
[Featured Image by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images]