The official photo of a UCLA basketball team that has gone through so much this season. Photo courtesy of mostlyuclahoops.blogspot.com
A LOOK AT THE MEN’S AND WOMEN’S TEAMS FROM SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA WHO ARE IN THIS YEAR’S MARCH MADNESS
UCLA BRUINS (Men)
Record: 21-11, 11-7 and tied for 3rd in the Pac-12 Conference
- Swept both games from USC in this year’s season series, 82-79 on February 3rd and 83-72 on March 3rd
- Beat Kentucky in New Orleans, 83-75, on December 23rd
- Beat Arizona in Tucson, 82-74, on February 8th
- Lost To Arizona in the Pac-12 Tournament Semifinals, 78-67, in overtime on March 10th
NCAA Tournament Seed: 11th in East Regional
First Game: Tonight vs St. Bonaventure in Dayton, OH, 6:10 p.m. TV: Tru-TV
Aaron Holiday, PG – 20.3 ppg, 5.1 apg
Thomas Welch, C – 13.0 ppg, 10.7 rpg
Kris Wilkes, G – 13.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg
Thoughts & Prediction:
Anytime you can get your team into the NCAA Tournament after going through much turmoil; namely those three players getting busted for shoplifting in China before the first game in November,
You must get credited for the job you did.
Which is why I give Steve Alford much respect for keeping his Bruins together and focused enough to win 21 games, because after LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill deprived him of the depth that was sorely needed due to their extreme stupidity, things could have been a lot worse in Westwood.
As such, even though they are in a “First Four” play-in game, it’s far better than not getting into the tournament at all.
For all those that dispute that, just ask USC.
As such, I see Alford’s band of Bruins as having a pretty good chance at beating St. Bonaventure tonight and meeting sixth-seeded Florida in Dallas on Thursday, especially if Welch and Holiday, who has put the team on his back of late, have good games.
But that’s as far as I think they’ll get.
PREDICTION: Two and through.
The three leaders of this year’s UCLA women’s basketball team, from left to right: Monique Billings, Kelli Hayes and Jordin Canada. Photo courtesy of uclabruins.com
UCLA BRUINS (Women)
Record: 24-7, 14-4 and tied for 3rd in the Pac-12 Conference
- BIGGEST WIN: vs 2nd-ranked Baylor, 82-68, on November 18th at Pauley Pavilion – it is Baylor’s only loss this season!
- Gave top-ranked, #1 overall seed, and all-around super girls Connecticut a battle before losing to them, 78-60, on November 21st
- Swept USC in this year’s season series, 59-46 on February 2nd and 84-70 on February 5th
- Lost three games to Oregon, including in the Pac-12 Tournament Semifinals, 65-62, on March 3rd
National Rank: 9th
NCAA Tournament Seed: 3rd in the Kansas City Regional
First Game: Saturday, March 17th vs American in Pauley Pavilion, 12:30 p.m. TV: ESPN2
Jordin Canada, PG – 16.8 ppg, 6.1 apg
Monique Billings, F – 15.2 ppg, 9.7 rpg
Kennedy Burke, G – 10.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg
Thoughts & Prediction:
The one thing keeping me from proclaiming this team as a great one with a more-than-excellent shot at making the Final Four?
One word: OREGON.
Those Ducks exposed UCLA’s shortcomings, as any team that beats another team three times in one season would.
What really hurt was the fact that those Bruins blew a good-sized lead in the last few minutes of the Pac-12 Tournament semis against that Oregon team and lost in a bitterly disappointing fashion.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that I don’t think this is a very good team that coach Cori Close put together, because it is; I saw that firsthand against Baylor.
And it doesn’t mean that I don’t think they have a good shot at going far in this Big Dance, because they do.
If the UCLA team that beat Baylor and swept ‘SC shows up, they’ll have a good shot at getting past (probably) Texas in the Sweet Sixteen and (probably) Mississippi State in the Elite Eight.
If the UCLA team that lost to Oregon three times shows up, however, I don’t known if they’ll get past the second round.
Which is why I’m making this…
PREDICTION: Sweet 16, with a chance at the Elite 8.
Long Beach State takes on Cal State Fullerton in the quarterfinals of the Big West Tournament at Honda Center in Anaheim on Thursday, Mar. 8, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register/SCNG) Photo courtesy of ocregister.com
CAL STATE FULLERTON TITANS (Men)
Record: 20-11, 10-6 and 4th place in the Big West Conference (regular season)
- BIG WEST TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONS – beat regular season champion UC Davis in the semis and UC Irvine, 71-55, in the finals on March 10th
NCAA Tournament Seed: 15th in the East Regional
First Game: Friday, March 16th vs 2nd-seeded Purdue in Detroit, MI, 9:30 a.m. TV: Tru TV
Kyle Allman, Jr., G – 19.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg
Khalil Ahmad, G – 15.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg
Jackson Rowe, F – 12.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg
Thoughts & Prediction:
I give extreme props to any team who, after finishing around the middle of the pack in their conference during the regular campaign, beats the teams above them in their conference tournament to earn their spot in the Big Dance.
Big pats on the back go out to coach Dedrique Taylor and his Titans for achieving that at Honda Center in Anaheim this past weekend.
Not bad for a basketball team from a school that is far more known for a baseball program that has won the College World Series four times.
Unfortunately for those Titans, like pretty much every other 15 and 16 seed, I don’t see them giving the bigger Boilermakers from Purdue that much of a fight on Friday.
PREDICTION: One and Done.
The Cal State Northridge team including Tessa Boagni, center, cheer their team as they take the lead late in the second period over UC Santa Barbara in a Big West Tournament quarterfinal game in Fullerton on Wednesday, March 7, 2018. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer) Photo courtesy of dailynews.com
CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE MATADORS (Women)
Record: 19-15, 8-8 and 5th place in the Big West Conference (regular season)
- BIG WEST TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONS – Beat regular season champion UC Davis, 63-55, in the finals on March 10th.
- Overcame an 0-5 start
NCAA Tournament Seed: 16th in the Spokane Regional
First Game: Friday, March 16th vs 1st-seeded and 5th-ranked Notre Dame in Spokane, WA. TV: ESPN2
Channon Fluker, C – 18.8 ppg, 12.1 rpg
Tessa Boagni, F – 13.6 ppg, 7.6 rpg
Serafina Maulupe, G – 11.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg
Thoughts & Prediction:
I give more respect and props to this team from the San Fernando Valley – from a place where I went to graduate school, incidentally – than I give to Cal State Fullerton’s men’s squad, for a simple reason:
They figuratively rose from the dead, overcoming a 0-5 start to not only win 19 games, but to beat two teams above them, including regular season champ UC Davis, for their ticket to the NCAA tourney.
Those Matadors are a perfect example of the term, “A Team With Nothing To Lose”
Which is exactly what they will be against Notre Dame.
However, in an excellent illustration of reality setting in, CSUN has about as much of a chance of beating the elite Fighting Irish as a snowball’s chance of not melting in that place opposite of Heaven.
That shouldn’t take away from the great job that coach Jason Flowers and his young red and black-clad ladies did this year.
PREDICTION: One and Done
UCLA guard Aaron Holiday (#3), the ultimate key player if the Bruins are going to go anywhere in this year’s Big Dance. Photo courtesy of dailybruin.com