The Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament begins today and if the UCLA basketball team wants a shot at the NCAA Tournament, they have to run the table, but it is possible?
We are down to “do or die” mode with the UCLA basketball team as they have one last stand this season and that comes in the Pac-12 Tournament.
The Bruins blew a chance at getting a first-round bye in the conference tourney last week when they went on the road and got obliterated by Colorado and Utah. Before the week, UCLA was tied for third place in the Pac-12, but after those consecutive losses, they could do no better than a 7-seed.
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That brings us to today where UCLA will take on #10 Stanford in the first round at 6 p.m. This is an interesting matchup as the Bruins and Cardinal split their season series. Both started Pac-12 play against one another back in early January with UCLA easily handling Stanford. The Cardinal returned the favor a few weeks ago as they put up 104 points on the Bruins, the most points they have given up this season.
When UCLA plays with determination, they can beat anyone in the conference, yet they often fall apart when they do not have a quick start or get buried by runs by their opponents. The Bruins also fail to keep their foot on the gas late in games and seem to become a bit lackadaisical after a few progressive minutes. If UCLA wants to reap the fruits of their labor, they have to play 40 tough minutes of basketball in every game, and this week, they have to play 160 total minutes of tough basketball if they want to win the tourney and go to the Big Dance.
Though it is possible in theory, the reality of it all is that they have not done that this season. Additionally, they have not won four games in a row since the first four games of the season when they played Purdue Fort Wayne, Long Beach State, St. Francis, and Presbyterian. Even though the Pac-12 has been down this season, the competition in this tournament is better than those four teams.
But let us not get bogged down with this information. Let us venture further into the Pac-12 Tournament pending a UCLA win over Stanford.
If the Bruins get to move onto the quarterfinals, they will take on #2 Arizona State who has had a more impressive Pac-12 season run than they did last year. In their only meeting at Pauley this season, the Sun Devils took out the Bruins in what was another listless effort by UCLA. ASU is good this year, but they are very beatable. If UCLA makes it this far, there is no reason why they can not take down Arizona State.
That would then bring us to a late Friday night matchup in the semifinals against #3 Utah, #6 Oregon or #11 Washington State. If the results are defined by the rankings, UCLA would most likely face Utah, a team they were swept by this season. Looking back at those games, the Utes were beatable. In the first game at Pauley, the Bruins had a 22-point lead and were stomping the Utes… that was until Utah roared back to hit a game-winning, buzzer-beating three-pointer to take the win.
This past weekend, UCLA fought back from a 27-point deficit to cut Utah’s lead to nine. Though Utah won, UCLA continued to fight in that game, but will they have enough fight to get past the Utes and into the Pac-12 Championship Game?
If they do, they will most likely face #1 Washington and things might not end up favorably for the Bruins. UCLA has had some flashes of greatness in every game they have played this season, but as I pointed out before, they need to do that for 40 minutes and against UW on February 2, they did not play 40 good minutes. On top of that, the Huskies have a very talented roster that is quite hungry this season and wants to not only take the Pac-12 regular season championship but the tournament championship.
Against these four teams, UCLA has gone 1-5. That does not project well for the Bruins, but honestly, with March Madness descending upon us and the calamity caused by the conference this year, anything can happen. So what is my projection for UCLA… a quarterfinal loss against ASU.