5 players UCLA doesn’t want to see in the Pac-12 Tournament

On Thursday night, Washington and Keion Brooks took care of business against UCLA in Seattle. Now, with the Pac-12 looking like a two-bid league, the Bruins will need to break out of a losing streak and win the conference tournament to punch their ticket to March Madness.

Washington Huskies forward Keion Brooks Jr. (1)
Washington Huskies forward Keion Brooks Jr. (1) / Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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On Thursday night at the Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle, UCLA lost its third straight game in Pac-12 play to fall to 14-14 on the year and 9-8 in the conference. Mick Cronin is now three years removed from taking the Bruins to the Final Four in the 2021 NCAA Tournament and has his team on the outside of the March Madness bubble looking in. 

In its final year, the Pac-12 was a national force on the football field, with multiple teams in contention for the College Football Playoff, but on the hardwood, it's been a bit more disappointing. The “Conference of Champions” will likely only be a two-bid league, so for the Bruins to sneak into the big dance, they’ll need to be the Pac-12 Tournament champions.

The Bruins are 95th in Kenpom and 113th in the NCAA’s Net Rankings. Defensively, UCLA ranks 79th in efficiency and 257th in offensive efficiency. Defending the three-point line has been a recurring issue, but the biggest flaw of Cronin’s team is its inability to match elite scorers. Without Johnny Juzang or Jaime Jaquez Jr. to bail the Bruins out on the offensive end, the team has been lifeless. 

Prior to this recent losing skid, the Bruins had won six in a row, so Cronin’s group is capable of winning four or five games in Las Vegas. However, they’ll be hoping to avoid these five players who could single-handedly extinguish their March Madness dreams. 

G. Senior. . . 5. 511. Caleb Love. Caleb Love. Caleb Love. player

When UCLA and Arizona matched up in Tucson, it was Pelle Larson, not Caleb Love who led the Wildcats to a 77-71 win. The 6-foot-6 Larson went 6-12 from the field and finished with 22 points. Love went 5-16 and finished with 14 points. He nearly shot Arizona out of the game, but that willingness to keep shooting actually makes him a tough matchup for UCLA. 

Yes, Caleb Love can shoot his team out of every game they play. If his shots aren’t falling, that doesn’t mean he’s going to stop taking them. Even on a bad shooting night, Arizona was still able to beat UCLA, but what if Love did get hot? 

When UCLA had Juzang or Jaquez, Cronin knew he had a guy who could rise to the occasion and trade buckets with their opponent's best scorer. Now, Cronin doesn’t have that player. Sebastian Mack is UCLA’s leading scorer at 12.8 a game and Lazar Stefanovic might be the team’s most lethal scorer, but he’s still only shooting 37.4% from the field and 34.4% from three. 

If Love hits five or six of his 7.6 three-point attempts per game, then it’ll be curtains for UCLA, so Cronin would likely rather face a different opponent and take his chances in a rock fight.