Akron Zips NCAA Tournament Team Preview: Can they cover the spread?

Akron Zips NCAA Tournament Team Preview: Can they cover the spread?

Ayden Fahlstrom
2 years ago
2 min read
Members of the Akron Zips celebrate after knocking off Kent State in the MAC Championship game inside of Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse

The Mid-American Conference once again got just one team in the NCAA Tournament, and it is the Akron Zips that will represent the league this year. Akron stunned Kent State in the MAC Championship Game to earn the automatic bid, and their reward is a matchup with the UCLA Bruins. 

The Zips were given the number 13 seed in the East Region, and they enter the First Round as a 13.5-point underdog. The winner of this game will advance to take on the winner of Saint Mary’s/Wyoming/Indiana. 

There won’t be many people considering Akron as a true threat to upset UCLA in the First Round, but the large spread is interesting. This is March Madness after all, and the Zips will be trying to play the role of underdog. 

Covering the spread is the first goal for the Zips, and there are reasons to believe that they can actually get it done. 

Akron Has the Momentum

Akron is entering the NCAA Tournament having won eight straight games, and that includes two big upset in the MAC Tournament. The Zips are playing their best basketball of the year, but this team also played Ohio State to a one-point loss at the beginning of the season. 

Forward Ali Ali has been on an absolute tear of late, and he leads the Zips with over 14 points per game. Enrique Freeman has chipped in with 13.2 points per game, and Akron is tough to beat when he is shooting the ball well. 

The Zips will have to put together a terrific defensive effort to stay in this game, and rebounding will be a big key. 

UCLA Finally Healthy

Every college basketball team has dealt with adversity this season, but few have had to deal with as much as UCLA. Injuries, sickness, COVID shutdowns are just some of the problems that the Bruins faced, and it definitely hurt their NCAA Tournament seed. 

When healthy, the Bruins are one of the best teams in the country and Johnny Juzang and Tyger Campbell lead the way. Juzang leads the team with 16 points per game and Campbell has dished out over eight assists per game.

Akron will also have to deal with a pretty significant size disadvantage in the First Round matchup on Thursday. 

Take the Points…And Pray

Akron is good enough to compete with UCLA for 40 minutes in this game, but they are going to have to play extremely well. The Zips are coming into this game with a ton of momentum, but there is just no margin for error on Thursday. 

This is the same UCLA team that advanced all the way to the Final Four a year ago, and they are starting to peak at the right time. Don’t expect Akron to really pose a big threat to pull off this upset, but 13.5-points is just too many. 

Take those points as the Zips will cover the spread as their season comes to an end in a respectful way. 

Check out the betJACK instagram as you can find all the latest odds shifts and so much more during March Madness!

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