The Pac-12 Tournament may start today, but UCLA basketball has an extra day to prepare. With that Go Joe Bruin previews what could and might happen with the Bruins.
Beating (and subsequently sweeping) USC to finish the season gave the UCLA basketball team a boost entering the postseason. It also gave them enough conference wins to get that all-important first round bye in the tourney.
The Bruins find out later today if they will take on 12 Cal or 5 Stanford in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament. But that is only the first step in winning some hardware. But realistically, UCLA needs to worry about winning NCAA Tournament committee members over before winning a trophy.
So let us take a look at UCLA’s path through the tourney as we preview the rumble in Las Vegas.
Quarterfinals vs 12 Cal/5 Stanford
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A Cal win would make UCLA’s chances of getting another “W” easier, but might not carry the weight like a “W” agaisnt Stanford. The Bruins destroyed last place Cal twice this year, which leads me that if they make it past Stanford (they won’t), UCLA will run through them.
The more realistic scenario includes Stanford destroying Cal and giving UCLA a battle. The Bruins had the win and lost it up in the Bay, and then got the “W” at Pauley Pavilion. On a neutral court, where a guaranteed trip to the NCAA Tournament is on the line, anything can happen, but given UCLA’s tendency to play tough when it counts gets them to the next round.
Semifinals vs (most likely) 1 Arizona
UCLA shocked Arizona with a win in Tucson. It will be even tougher this time around as (1) Arizona fans travel very well to Sin City for the the tournament and (2) since Sean Miller was said to be on an FBI wiretap arranging a $100K payment to star freshman Deandre Ayton, the Wildcats have been playing with some extra fire.
If UCLA is going to win, they are going to need everyone to play at the top of their game. If they lose, this could be it for the season.
Pac-12 Championship Game?
If UCLA makes it this far, they should lock up an invite to the big dance, but that is no reason to stop. The Bruins would either play USC or Utah as I don’t see any lesser ranked teams making it this far.
Now this is a big “if”, but if UCLA and USC both make it to the championship game, it could be one of the most exciting games to occur between the two rivals in recent history. Still, I don’t necessarily like making a prediction, especially because the Bruins have inconsistent tendencies and might not make it this far, but if they do, UCLA should be 3-0 against the Trojans this season. Yeah, I said it.
Still, UCLA needs to take it one game at a time. The season is riding on their performance and the last thing they want to do is have a bad showing. If they play to the best of their abilities, they can (and have) beat anybody. Except Colorado.