So this happened and no one really foresaw it. Quickly after losing to Arizona Steve Alford got to campaigning and evidently it worked. An eleven seed suggests they were pretty squarely in the dance according to the committee who said the Bruins passed the “eye test.” I get it. I also get that they’ve played absolutely no one over their final five games suggesting that the committee believes their losing effort to Arizona was eye pleasing enough. This selection has no one happy but you know what? #BackThePac. Because, quite frankly, the Bruins have talented enough players to be tournament disruptive.
SOUTHERN METHODIST MUSTANGS
While we could start with the fact that Larry Brown coaches the ‘Stangs and once-but-more-accurately-twice-because-it-was-only-two-seasons coached UCLA, I’d rather note that they’re the highest KenPom rated six seed (#19). This is significant because: A) It means SMU is possibly under-seeded. B) UCLA is 1-8 against the KP Top-20. Further, they’ll have enough size to make life difficult for what seems to be the most critical pieces for UCLA to get things going: the front court. Yanick Moreira is a 6’11” solid and true post while Nic Moore is one of those darling little guys that people ‘in the know’ love to rave about. He understandably has flown under the radar as SMU didn’t amount to the wire-to-wire Final Four contender they projected to be before Emanual Mudiay declared for Europe. Nevertheless, Moore gets and gives, scoring 14 points per game and dishing upwards of 5 assists each night.
- Larry Brown took over just four seasons removed from the great John Wooden. He was the third of four consecutive coaches to not stick around in that wake. As the Bruins’ lead he was 42-17.
- Just the idea that the Bruins are in this tournament is a story. They seem to be the lightning rod for selection upset. Nevertheless, 32% of brackets have picked the Bruins to win this game.
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING
“I kind of did a double take.” – Reggie Miller
“There isn’t an at-large team less deserving of a bid in the history of the NCAA tournament.” – A guy
I liked UCLA, agree they were better than early season, but can’t believe they are in.
— Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) March 15, 2015
I’m not usually one to nitpick selections. The committee has a very difficult job and no matter what they do someone didn’t deserve a big and someone else did. I’m sure we could find something on the internet saying that Kentucky deserved a two-seed. My point is that UCLA is in the tournament and I’ve been saying for a very long time that seven-seeds everywhere should be wary of this squad. That was when I though they’d get a ten seed because they weren’t going to lose to ASU. They lost to ASU. But now they’re definitively dancing and they have a senior guard in Norman Powell who is playing as good of basketball as he ever has. Kevon Looney is as difficult a matchup as there is in the tournament (ok, hyperbole, but 6’10” with post moves and a jumper is tough). Thus, getting past SMU wouldn’t be shocking. Getting past Iowa State would. The Cyclones are good, Big XII tournament champions, and likely going to end UCLA’s season.
One thought on “NCAA Tournament Preview: #11 UCLA Bruins”
Did UCLA deserve an at large bid to the NCAA tourney? Definitely maybe. If Ohio State football jumped Baylor and TCU in the football playoff – then I say yes. The eye test does account for something. It’s subjective, but it shouldn’t be totally discounted. The rationale the selection committee used in both scenarios make sense when numbers don’t differentiate. The selection is more of an indictment on how the committee felt about teams from the AAC, Atlantic 10, Mountain West, etc. Everyone pointed out UCLA’s pathetic road record – agreed it was horrific. Last I checked there are no road games in the NCAA tournament – sorry about that Boise State.
Pundits pointed to UCLA’s record against the RPI Top 50 – okay, when the Bruins twice played Stanford they were ranked 33-40 in the RPI. Is it the Bruins’ fault Stanford couldn’t get out of their own way down the stretch? Weren’t the wins looked upon as good wins at the time they occurred? Do the numbers tell how UCLA totally outplayed Oklahoma and lead by ten points with ten minutes to play before blowing it and fouling at the end to make the score look a lot worse than it actually was? Does it explain how UCLA – in foul trouble and severely limited – could have easily beaten Arizona with better execution and a break or two down the stretch? I believe this is what the committee was talking about.
Do I expect the Bruins to make any noise this year. Absolutely not. Are they lucky to be in the tournament. Probably. Can they beat SMU. Definitely. If they play their game can you see them giving Iowa State ( a team that has a bad habit of falling behind by double digits and pulling out wins) a tough game. The answer is likely an emphatic yes! Do I think this will occur? No, but I don’t think Georgetown is a #4 seed either, so what do I really, really know.
It’s Kentucky’s year. I like Arizona to get to Indy and face them. I honestly believe UA is the only team that has the size and athleticism to play with Big Blue. Hoping we get to see it. Have fun it’s March and these next three weeks are what we live for.