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Akron ‘zips’ into NCAA Tournament

Riding an eight-game winning streak, No. 13 Zips take on No. 4 UCLA in first round

NCAA Basketball: MAC Tournament - Kent St. vs Akron
Enrique Freeman and Xavier Castaneda are two of Akron’s leading scorers heading into the NCAA Tournament.
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Matchup: No. 13 Akron vs. No. 4 UCLA

Date and Time: Thursday, March 17 at 9:50 p.m. EST

Location: Moda Center, Portland, Ore.

TV: TBS

DraftKings Line: UCLA -13.5, O/U 128.5

PORTLAND, ORE. — After claiming the MAC championship, the Akron Zips enter the NCAA Tournament as a 13 seed and take on fourth-seeded UCLA in the first round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament.

The Zips finished tied for third in the MAC during the regular season at 14-6 in conference play. They went on a run in the conference tournament by defeating No. 5 Buffalo, top-seeded Toledo and No. 2 Kent State.

The 75-55 win over Kent State in the title game marked the Zips’ eighth consecutive win. Akron initially fell behind 11-3 but scored eight straight to get back into the game. The Zips used an 11-2 run late in the first half to seize control.

After the Golden Flashes pulled back within one in the second half, the Zips used separate 11-2 and 11-0 spurts to secure the victory. Akron shot over 50% from the floor as well as from 3-point land.

Enrique Freeman netted 23 points and was named tournament MVP. Ali Ali and Xavier Castaneda scored 15 points apiece. Garvin Clarke rounded out the scorers in double figures with 11.

For the season, Akron boasted the best defense in the MAC by giving up just 62.8 point per game. Offensively, the Zips ranked second in 3-point shooting at 36%.

Freeman led the conference in rebounding at 10.8 boards per contest and was second in field goal percentage at 66%.

Ali led the team in scoring at 14.2 points per contest. Castaneda ranked second with 13.5 points. Freeman followed with 13.2 points.

The matchup against UCLA is the first time the Zips and the Bruins face each other. This season marks the fifth appearance for Akron in the NCAA Tournament. It made three trips to the Big Dance from 2009 to 2013 and also participated in March Madness in 1986.