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The USC Trojans standing for the national anthem before their game against UCLA at Galen Center. Photo courtesy of usctrojans.com

 

A LOOK AT THE HOOPS SQUADS FROM THE LOS ANGELES AREA GOING TO BOTH THE MEN’S AND WOMEN’S “BIG DANCE”, AND PREDICTIONS OF HOW FAR THEY WILL GO

It’s hard to believe that this is the only college basketball program from SoCal that will be one of the 68 teams participating in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

But since that’s the case, let’s take a look at the…

 

USC TROJANS

Record:  21-12 overall, 9-9 and tied for sixth place in the Pac-12 Conference

Lost to Utah in Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals, 80-72

Beat UCLA three times in the same season for the first time since 1954, including a 95-71 win in the Pac-12 Tournament

Earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011

NCAA Tournament Seed: 8th in the East Regional

First Opponent: #9 Providence, Thursday, March 17th, Raleigh, NC, 6:45 p.m. TV: TBS

Team Leaders:

Jordan McLaughlin, G – 13.4 ppg, 4.7 apg

Nikola Jovanovic, F – 12.1 ppg, 7.0 rpg

Julian Jacobs, G – 11.8 ppg, 4.7 apg

 

USC Trojans basketball – highlights of their 95-71 win over UCLA in the Pac-12 Tournament, March 9, 2016

 

 

Southern California's Jordan McLaughlin, right, drives the ball against California's Tyrone Wallace (3) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Southern California’s Jordan McLaughlin, right, drives the ball against California’s Tyrone Wallace (3) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot) Photo courtesy of ocregister.com

A Few Thoughts:

Although they sputtered down the stretch, winning but three of their last ten games, I didn’t doubt that these Trojans would get their first bid to the NCAA Tournament in five years, simply because, well…

If there’s any other college basketball team in the country that has improved as much as coach Andy Enfield’s squad, I would so like to meet them as we’re talking about a program that had a concrete-hard lease in the Pac-12 basement for the past two years.

This improvement particularly manifested itself in their encounters with their crosstown rival, as USC beat UCLA three times on the hard court (first time that’s happened since –  get this – 1954!) by scores that weren’t even close, their athleticism decimating the Bruins and showing that the pendulum in SoCal college hoops has shifted.

Getting beyond the Crosstown Rivalry, it’s safe to say that this bid is a reward for the Trojans’ upward trend.

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Trojan guard Jordan McLaughlin pushing the ball up against Colorado. Photo courtesy of conquestchonicles.com

 

Prediction for USC in the Tournament:

Because of their quickness, athleticism, and desire, I think ‘SC has a decent shot of beating Providence.

But if they do, it will (most) likely be top-seeded North Carolina meeting them in the next round.

And as far as upsetting those Tar Heels…

Excuse me while I laugh at that prospect now.

All right, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, here’s my official proclamation of the Trojans’ fate in this Big Dance:

Two and Through.

But they shouldn’t feel too bad about that, as it’s been a great season for the cardinal and gold regardless, showing that USC is not just a football school.

 

 

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UCLA’s women’s team during this season’s Pac-12 Tournament championship game vs Oregon State. Photo courtesy of gojoebruin.com

 

It’s just as hard to believe that like their male counterparts, the Women’s “Big Dance” will have only one representative from the Los Angeles area.

Let’s check out that one team chosen, the…

 

UCLA BRUINS

Record: 24-8 overall, 14-4 and tied for third in the Pac-12 Conference

Lost to Oregon State in the Pac-12 Tournament Finals, 69-57

Winners of 13 of their last 16 games

National Rank:  10th

NCAA Tournament Seed: 3rd in the Bridgeport Regional

First Opponent: #14 Hawaii, Saturday, March 19th, Pauley Pavilion (UCLA campus), 3:30 p.m. TV: ESPN Networks

Team Leaders: 

Jordin Canada, G – 16.1 ppg, 5.9 apg

Nirra Fields, G – 15.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg

Monique Billings, F – 12.7 ppg, 8.0 rpg

 

UCLA Bruins Women’s Basketball – Highlights of their 73-67 overtime win over California in the Pac-12 Tournament Semifinals, March 5, 2016

 

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Bruin guard Nirra Fields during a game at Pauley Pavilion earlier this season. Photo courtesy of dailybruin.com

A Few Thoughts:

If the UCLA men’s hoops team wanted to know what winning basketball looked like on campus this season – and how to win games – all they had to do was to check out their female counterparts.

Especially in how coach Cori Close’s team played down the stretch, winning 13 of their last 16 games and making it all the way to the Pac-12 Conference tournament final in Seattle before falling to Oregon State.

In fact, at 24 wins this hoops team was undoubtedly the best that SoCal had to offer in college basketball this season, male or female.

And is more than deserving of their high seed and the privilege of hosting the first two rounds of the Bridgeport regional in Pauley Pavilion.

Prediction for UCLA in the Tournament:

These Bruins should get by Hawaii and whoever wins between South Florida and Colorado State, the other two teams that will spend the weekend in Westwood, becoming one of the 16 teams left in the tourney.

I think they even have a shot at beating (an assumption, I know) #2 seed Texas, who – barring any upsets – UCLA would meet in the regional semis.

However, should Close’s team get that far, there’s one little thing looming, a program on the level of the 1927 New York Yankees or the men’s Bruin hoopsters of the John Wooden era:

The University of Connecticut Huskies

Three-time defending national champions, working on a fourth straight crown.

Winners of ten NCAA titles, more than any other women’s hoops team and only one short of the UCLA men’s 11.

Owners of six undefeated seasons, including this season with not a close, sweat-it-out affair among their 32 wins and counting.

Only the most die-hard, rah-rah Bruin fan would think UCLA would have a realistic chance against mighty UConn – but we’ll cross that bridge when and if we come to it.

As such, here’s how I see the Lady Bruins’ fate:

Sweet Sixteen, with a chance at the Elite Eight

Which would be considered a good sign of continuing progress, beginning with their NIT championship last year.

 

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UCLA forward Monique Billings driving against second-ranked South Carolina on November 22nd. Photo courtesy of uclabruins.com

 

 

 

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