March Madness 2021 kicks off tonight with a showdown between UCLA and Michigan State. UCLA started their season well, winning 12 of 13 games, but weeks-long delays from COVID protocols helped to ruin that momentum. The Bruins have lost 7 of 12 games, and since January 16th have covered only 3 of their last 14 point spreads.
In their last game in Las Vegas against Oregon State, things turned sour once more. UCLA led by 16 with five minutes left in the 1st half but eventually saw that lead vanish as they lost by 4 to OSU in overtime. UCLA’s top five average scorers are all guards. They’ll need to get more points-in-the-paint in this one.
Michigan State has suffered from inconsistency lately, going 7-7 in their last 14 games. In the games they were able to win, they usually won by close margins. But, in the three recent games they lost, they dropped those by margins of 11, 19, and 18.
They appear to rely too much on forward Aaron Henry to produce, and they’ll need to see more contribution from others to get things back in control. Spartans’ coach Tom Izzo knows his team will need to be ready. He wants to avoid a repeat of the 2011 tournament when the Bruins took an 18-point lead over Michigan State at halftime, and UCLA held on to win 78-76 to knock the Spartans out of that tourney.