UCLA’s Bryce Alford (coach’s son) in action against USC on March 4th; his 23 points led all scorers in the Bruins’ 85-74 win
Now that the regular season has ended for L.A’s two institutions of higher learning on the hard court, I thought I would offer my outlook on how things went and how things will likely go for UCLA’s Bruins and USC’s Trojans…
I’ll make it short and not so sweet for coach Andy Enfield’s Men of Troy, who after losing to UCLA for the fifth time in a row last night for finished in the Pac-12 Conference cellar for the second straight year (their conference record: 3-15)
Any eight-year old in a recreation and parks basketball league will agree that ‘SC, with their 11-19 overall record, is going absolutely nowhere, that the only way they’ll see the NCAA tournament is to win the upcoming Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas.
Even though there is a decent nucleus of young players who lost a lot of close games throughout the season…
I can hear the laughter now, at least as far as the Trojans’ chances at the MGM Grand Hotel Arena are concerned.
As for UCLA, at 11-7 (good for fourth place in the Pac-12) to go with an overall mark of 19-12, it can be best put like this:
If the term “Bubble Team” was in Webster’s Dictionary, a photo of coach Steve Alford’s band of Bruins would appear as the official definition.
After losing several key players to either graduation or the NBA, this was a complete up-and-down year in Westwood as UCLA’s fortunes ranged from being Mini-Me fighting Mike Tyson (in his prime) in their humiliation at the hands of top-ranked – and odds-on favorite to not only win the national championship, but to go undefeated in doing so for the first time since Indiana in 1976 – Kentucky in December when they were so Three Stooges-level inept they scored just seven points in the entire first half,
To delivering an outstanding 16-1 record in the friendly confines of Pauley Pavilion, their only loss coming at the hands of seventh-ranked Gonzaga as these Bruins were essentially two different teams depending on the what color their jerseys were and the location of their games.
Bruin senior Norman Powell (#4) being contested by a Trojan while going for a lay-up
Now to answer the question of what I feel UCLA’s postseason chances are…
The only way they can guarantee themselves of being one of the 68 teams called on Selection Sunday is – like their crosstown rivals – to win the Pac-12 tournament.
Which I feel they have a slightly better chance of doing as they are the #4 seed in Vegas and will first play the winner of Stanford and – in what could be the third time they have faced each other in 2014-15 – USC.
A win in that contest will earn the Bruins a date with what will likely be fifth-ranked Arizona, who has already beaten them once.
With UCLA being as inconsistent and streaky as they have been this season, beating the teams they were supposed to beat while looking bad against ranked squads such as Kentucky, North Carolina and Oklahoma (all losses) and on the road in general with a record of 3-11 outside of Westwood,
As much as it hurts to say this as an alumnus (class of 1991), I have to predict that the bubble will burst for the Bruins when the 68 teams are called on March 15 and they will be left with three letters to describe their postseason fate:
Translation: National Invitational Tournament, the biggest consolation entity in all of sports when the winner gets the distinction of being the 69th best team in college basketball.
To be honest, while they have fought hard and improved over the course of the season, UCLA’s resume is simply not strong enough for the tournament selection committee to justify placing them in the “Big Dance” as in my opinion, they will be among the “First Four Out”.
Of course I could be wrong, and in what I admit is a sense of partisanship and loyalty to Bruin Nation I hope I am.
As is always said, we will see what unfolds on the Las Vegas Strip for these Bruins – and Trojans – starting on Wednesday, March 11 and continuing to Saturday the 14th.
Here are some highlights of UCLA and USC battling at Pauley Pavilion last night: