UCLA Basketball: Can they still make the NCAA Tournament?

The Bruins will have to pull off a few upsets and win the games they are supposed to win in able to even have a chance at making the NCAA Tournament.
California v UCLA
California v UCLA / Jayne Kamin-Oncea/GettyImages

Let's first look at their resume to determine how many games they need to win to even have an opportunity of being selected for the 2024 NCAA Tournament.

UCLA has currently less than a 1% chance of making the NCAA tournament and they need to start winning very soon to even have any possibility of qualifying for the tournament this season.

UCLA Bruins

Rating Percentage Index Ranking247

College Basketball Power Index Rankings129

Pomeroy College Basketball Ranking106

Net Ranking: 176

UCLA at this time has zero Quadrant one or two wins and are 1-3 against Quadrant three opponents this season. Their NET Ranking of 176 is not good and they need to get some quad one or two wins in the next couple of weeks to improve their NET ranking to even be considered an NCAA Tournament selection.

First let's take a look at the positives this season before we look at what the Bruins need to do to improve their NCAA Tournament resume.

No. 1 UCLA have played excellent defense for most of the season.

Here is where UCLA ranks in various defense categories as of 1/7/24

Tied at No. 12 for scoring defense

No. 30 in field goal percentage defense

UCLA is only allowing 62.2 points per game.

No. 2 the Bruins when they lose, they do not get beaten by a lot of points.

In the Maui Invitational, UCLA lost to Marquette by only two points and to Gonzaga by only four points.

In two other non-conference games not on UCLA's home court, the Bruins were defeated by Ohio State by seven points and Villanova by nine.

At home, UCLA lost to Maryland by nine, Stanford by six, and Cal by nine points. The Bruins did get upset at home by Cal State Northridge when they lost by four points.

Besides their road loss to Villanova, the Bruins lost on the road to Oregon by only five points.

In summary, UCLA has not lost one game this season by double digits and five of those losses were by five or less points.

No. 3 UCLA and head coach Mick Cronin have proven before as they did during the 2019-20 season that they can turn the season around and make the NCAA Tournament with some wins in conference play.

During that season, UCLA was 8-9 after a home loss to Stanford. In those nine losses, the Bruins lost by double digits seven of those nine games. UCLA would go on to nine of their next 12 games before Covid protocols canceled the NCAA Tournament that year.

UCLA was projected as a No. 10 seed playing Illinois for example had the NCAA Tournament been played that year.

You can also somewhat relate the following season in 2020-21 to another example of a UCLA team that had a bad stretch of games but still made the NCAA Tournament. That season they lost seven of their last 12 games but still made the tournament and went on to play in the Final Four.

Finally, let's take a look at the main concerns for UCLA moving forward.

No. 1 UCLA's offense has really struggled this season.

To say the Bruin's offensive production is among the worst among Power Five conference teams is fairly accurate. In UCLA's nine losses this season, the Bruins failed to score above 59 points four times and they also did not score above 60 points in those losses six times. Even in some of UCLA's victories, they did not score above 69 points three times and they scored more than 78 points at any point of the season.

UCLA only has three players averaging double-digit points per game and as a team, they are shooting only 29% from the three-point range and they are only averaging 23.3 made field goals per game. Scoring only 53 and 57 points at home in their last two games is not a good sign that their offense is improving.

No. 2 the Bruins have lost seven of their last eight and four of those losses have been on their home court.

UCLA basketball fans would have some glimmer of hope for this season had the Bruins been playing better of late. However, two back to back home losses to two teams in Cal and Stanford who are projected to be in the bottom half of the conference standings have many UCLA fans believing that the Bruins have no chance of making the NCAA Tournament this season.

In their last four losses, UCLA has only scored 57, 53, 59, and 60 points. Yes, the Bruins defense has played well in those games but the inability to score points is causing UCLA to lose games that they should have won which has been extremely frustrating for many UCLA fans.

No. 3 UCLA has a difficult schedule for the rest of the regular season.

Six of their next nine games are on the road and UCLA has only won on the road one time and that was against Oregon State. The Bruins also still have to play ranked Arizona twice as well as USC and Washington.

The beginning of their conference schedule on paper was the easiest part of their conference schedule and now for example their is a stretch coming up when they have three straight road games against Arizona State. Arizona, and USC.

In order to to make the NCAA Tournament this is what at minimum UCLA needs to do.

UCLA has to win 12 of their last 16 games and a win or two in the Pac-12 tournament. It will be a tall task to only loss four games but mathematically it is possible. They would also need some quadrant one and two wins meaning a win over Arizona as well as a win over Utah and Colorado. Beating USC twice would help as well. The possibility of this happening is highly unlikely and a lot has to change in terms of improvements for UCLA but it is still early January and hope is the only thing most UCLA basketball has in terms of a remote chance that the Bruins get into the tournament this year.


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