NCAA Tournament Predictions: East Region: 5. UNLV vs. 12. California

Forward Anthony Bennett (Dave Cleveland/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Forward Anthony Bennett (Dave Cleveland/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

 5. UNLV (25-9, 10-6 Mountain West)- The Runnin’ Rebels have some serious talent in freshman big man Anthony Bennett. The 6-8 forward led UNLV in scoring at 16.8 points per game and will be one of the first players selected in the NBA Draft come June. He is a bruising, powerful post player with a terrific shooting touch and incredible athleticism. Bennett has exploded at times this season, but he’s also disappeared in games too (see: five points in a loss to lowly Fresno State). Still, he is someone to be feared in this bracket.

While Bennett is the best pro prospect, point guard Anthony Marshall may actually be UNLV’s best player. He averages 10.5 points, 4 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game. As he’s gone, so have the Rebels gone this season. They’ve also got some talented players who haven’t shown up this year in forwards Khem Birch (7.2 ppg) and reigning Mountain West Player of the Year Mike Moser (7.2 ppg), whose fall from go-to guy to bench player and bit contributor has been very surprising.


6th Rebounds Per Game (40.1)

9th Assists Per Game (16.2)

137th Field Goal Percentage (.439)



Guard Allen Crabbe (Getty Images)

 12 California (20-11, 12-6 Pac-12)- The Golden Bears snuck into the field despite losing to 10th-place Utah in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament. Cal has been up-and-down all year long, and looked like a long-shot for an NCAA bid after losing five of seven in late December and struggling through January. But the Bears turned it on in February, reeling off 7 straight wins, including a season sweep of Oregon and a win at Arizona. Cal has a pair of terrific guards in juniors Allen Crabbe (18.7 ppg, 6 rpg) and Justin Hobbs (15.5 ppg, 4.8 apg). With apologies to UCLA and Arizona, they just might be the best backcourt duo in the Pac-12.

Cal was annihilated in the First Four game last season with South Florida. They want to make a little bit more of a lasting impression this time. Don’t count on it, though. The Golden Bears have already lost to UNLV this season and are coming off two dreadful losses to Stanford and Utah–the two biggest games of the season.


167th Points Per Game (67.5)

102nd Field Goal Percentage (.446)





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