Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

GREAT BRUIN MEMORIES: Tyus Edney being carried off by his UCLA teammates after making his epic game-winning shot against Missouri in 1995; the Bruins would go on to win their 11th national championship. Photo courtesy of latimes.com

 

A LOOK AT UCLA’s MEN’S AND WOMEN’S TEAMS, USC’s MEN’S TEAM, AND LONG BEACH STATE’S WOMEN’S TEAM AS THEY COMPETE FOR A NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP

 

This is my favorite event in basketball, period.

68 teams (64 for the women).

Three weeks.

One loss and you’re out.

Lots of Davids slaying Goliaths via the buzzer beater.

Forget the NBA and the Lakers and the Clippers (unless they’re in the NBA Finals, which will certainly not be the case for either of them this year or in the foreseeable future); as far as I’m concerned, the NCAA Tournament and its Final Four marks the end of basketball season for me.

Being that the “Big Dance” commences tomorrow, here is a preview of the two men’s and two women’s teams hailing from the Los Angeles area who will be competing in this March Madness.

As well as my official predictions as to how they will do.

Let’s get started with the men…

 

Three of the many UCLA players responsible for the team’s success this year: Bryce Alford (left), Lonzo Ball (#2) and T.J. Leaf (#22). Photo courtesy of GoJoeBruin.com

 

UCLA BRUINS

Record: 29-4, 15-3 and third place in the Pac-12 Conference

  • Beat then-top ranked Kentucky and top ten Arizona on the road
  • Lost to Arizona in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals, 86-75

Rank:  8th AP, 6th USA Today

Seed:  #3 in the South Regional

First Opponent:  #14 seed Kent State in Sacramento, Friday, March 17th, 6:57 p.m. TV: Tru TV

Key Players:

T.J. Leaf, F – 16.2 ppg, 8.3 rpg

Bryce Alford, G – 15.8 ppg

Lonzo Ball, G – 14.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 7.7.apg

Thomas Welch, C – 10.7 ppg, 8.8 rpg

Issac Hamilton, G – 14.1 ppg

 

 

Highlights of the Bruins beating USC in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas and taking the season series in the Crosstown Rivalry, 76-74. Courtesy of YouTube.

 

Thoughts and My Official Prediction:

I certainly can’t make the joke about the little boy choosing to live with this team because “They haven’t beaten anybody lately,” like I did last year at this time.

These Bruins made sure of that as largely thanks to a couple of freshmen who (one of them in particular) will be millionaires playing in the NBA in about eight months, they came back with a vengeance in matching their record for most regular season wins.

No one can dispute that it has been a great season, but let’s put it like this…

UCLA will go as far as their defense will take them.

And though there has been improvement in that area in recent weeks, I feel that the Bruins are still a little too inconsistent defensively.

That’s why my official prediction of this basketball team of my collegiate alma mater regarding this tournament is thus:

Sweet Sixteen, with a chance at the Elite Eight if things go perfectly.

 

USC guard and team leader Jordan McLaughlin driving against Washington in a recent game at Galen Center. Photo courtesy of ConquestChronicles.com

 

USC TROJANS

Record:  24-9, 10-8 and fifth in the Pac-12 Conference

  • Beat UCLA at Galen Center, 84-76
  • Beat Washington, 78-73, and lost to UCLA, 76-74, in the Pac-12 Tournament

Rank:  None

Seed:  #11 in the East Regional

First Opponent:  #11 seed Providence in Dayton, OH, Wednesday, March 15th, at 6:10 p.m., with the winner to play #6 seed SMU in Tulsa, OK on March 17th.  TV: Tru TV

Key Players:

Bennie Boatwright, F – 14.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg

Chimeze Metu, F – 14.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg

Jordan McLaughlin, G – 13.1 ppg, 5.5 apg

Elijah Stewart, G – 12.4 ppg, 4.0 rpg

 

Thoughts and My Official Prediction:

Because their record was better than last season’s when they made this Big Dance, I wasn’t surprised to see these Trojans get in as I would have chosen them if I were on the selection committee.

Being that a four game losing streak, including a loss to sub-par Arizona State, put them on the bubble after there was much excitement on the USC campus over their 14-0 start and undefeated non-conference record, there’s a lesson that coach Andy Enfield needs to apply for next season:

Schedule tougher non-conference opponents and reduce the number of cupcakes that you play.

Let’s face it Trojans, teams like Pepperdine, Cornell, Omaha and Missouri State will not prepare you for the Pac-12 grind.

As for how I see things unfolding…

USC will get revenge on Providence, who beat them with a last second shot in last year’s tournament, and their athleticism will give them a decent chance at beating 11th-ranked SMU, whom they had already defeated on November 25th.

But since Duke and overall top seed and top ranked Villanova are in ‘SC’s bracket, that as far as they will get as I see those Trojans reach the…

Round of 32, which is a kind scenario as SMU is obviously NOT the same team that USC beat earlier this year.

 

 

Moving on to the women, who had the selections for their Big Dance on Monday…

 

The Lady Bruins gathering during their game against USC’s Women of Troy, won by UCLA, 71-67, on January 22nd. Photo courtesy of dailybruin.com

 

UCLA BRUINS

Record:  23-8, 13-5 and 4th place in the Pac-12 Conference

  • Beat 8th ranked and Pac-12 champion Oregon State, 66-56, on January 13th
  • Beat 6th ranked Stanford, 85-76, on January 6th
  • Currently on a 27-game home winning streak

Rank:  15th AP, 14th Coaches

Seed:  #4 in the Bridgeport Regional – will host the first two rounds at Pauley Pavilion

First Opponent:  #13 seed Boise State, Pauley Pavilion, Saturday, March 18th, 3:30 p.m. TV: ESPN2

Key Players:

Jordin Canada, G – 18.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 6.6 apg

Monique Billings, F – 16.8 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 61 blocked shots

Kennedy Burke, G – 12.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg

Kari Korver, G – 8.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg

 

UCLA’s women’s hoops completing the sweep over USC, a 71-67 win over the Trojans in Westwood, courtesy of YouTube

 

Thoughts and My Official Prediction:

One thing is prevalent in my mind regarding this UCLA team,

They would have had a much higher ranking and seeding if it weren’t for those bad losses to Oregon and (especially!) Washington State on the road.

This is a good, solid team with talented players that can hurt opponents who have had a very good season; no one should question that.

However…

When I saw these Bruins’ bracket, it was a classic case of good news/bad news as on one hand they get to host the first two rounds in their Pauley Pavilion home, but on the other hand…

Assuming they make it that far, a certain team awaits them in the regional semifinals:

The University of Connecticut Huskies, owners of a winning streak that currently stands at 107 games,

Led by a coach who’s more like a ruthless general in Geno Auriemma,

And who are the undisputed queens of women’s basketball as they have been national champions four years running and are going for a fifth straight title and 12th overall.

Those Huskies are so good, I call them the WNBA’s 13th team.

Am I saying that beating those Wonder Women will be impossible for UCLA, should that scenario arise?

No – after all, as the 1969 “Miracle” New York Mets and the 1980 “Miracle On Ice” U.S. Olympic hockey team will tell you, there’s always the possibility.

But being the objective, impartial, and realistic member of Bruin Nation that I am, I simply can’t give my alma mater more than a minuscule chance, which is why I predict these Lady Bruins will reach the…

Sweet Sixteen, but that’s as far as they will go.

 

Long Beach State’s 49ers celebrating their selection into the NCAA Tourney. Photo courtesy of longbeachstate.com

 

LONG BEACH STATE 49ERS

Record:  23-10, 12-4 and 2nd place in the Big West Conference

  • Won the Big West Conference Tournament, beating UC Santa Barbara 56-55 on March 11th
  • Beat Cal State Northridge in the Big West Tournament semifinals on March 10th, 61-60

Rank:  None

Seed:  #15 in the Stockton Regional

First Opponent: #2 seed and 8th ranked Oregon State in Corvallis, OR, Friday, March 17th, at 2:00 p.m.  TV: ESPN2

Key Players:

Raven Benton, G – 11.4 ppg, 4.1 rpg

Anna Kim, G (Big West Tournament MVP) – 10.3 ppg, 3.8 apg

Madison Montgomery, F – 10.0 ppg

Jewelyn Sawyer, F/G – 8.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg

 

Thoughts and My Official Prediction:

I’ve always found these Big West teams interesting as they don’t get nearly the attention, the money, or the prestige of a UCLA or a USC, but have more than proved that they can play very good basketball – and any other sport.

This is certainly the case with this women’s team from Long Beach State as they deserve all the respect that a basketball fan can give them; they have certainly earned mine.

It doesn’t mean, however, that I see them making a Cinderella run in this Big Dance as those 49ers will see how the big girls – in this case the Pac-12 Champion Beavers from Oregon State – play and reality will set in.

That shouldn’t take away from their great season though.

In the proverbial thanks-for-playing scenario, my prediction for Long Beach State is…

One And Done.

 

Highlights of Long Beach State’s 61-60 win over Cal State Northridge in the Big West Tournament, courtesy of YouTube

 

 

 

 

Advertisements