After a lackluster season marked by winning streaks, losing streaks, and losing three of their last six games, including two to vastly inferior teams, for ONCE the UCLA Bruins were handed a gift by the NCAA.
The Bruins’ seven seed in the Southeast bracket was unanticipated and more than welcome.
First, the fact that the 22-10 Bruins, blown out of the Pac-10 Tournament by Oregon, were given a seven seed is astounding. I was thinking more like 10 or 11. Next, the fact that they were placed in what appears to be the weakest of the four brackets is also unusual. UCLA’s NCAA Tournament appearances in recent years generally find them in the toughest bracket. Finally, they appear to be slated to face teams that are, perhaps, seeded higher than they deserve.
The 19-14 Michigan State Spartans finished in the middle of the Big Ten at 9-9, and fared rather poorly in losing to Penn. St. in the Big 10 Tournament. They were clearly a bubble team, and should have probably received a 12 seed. Should the Bruins prevail against the Spartans, they would then face the winner between Florida and UCSB. Florida’s number two seed was also a big surprise, especially after being clobbered today in the SEC Tournament final, by Kentucky. This, after bad losses during the season, to schools including South Carolina, UCF, and Jacksonville. UCSB was a surprise winner of the Big West Conference, after compiling an 8-8 conference record.
Should the Bruins actually win the two opening games, they could then face a rematch with Steve Lavin’s Red-like Storm-like team, that the Bruins defeated earlier in the year. And, St. John’s will be without starting guard DJ Kennedy. For this matchup, St. John’s would have to get by a Gonzaga team not really considered to be in the class of recent seasons in Zagaland, but fresh off a WCC tourney win. Putting Wofford aside, that winner would face BYU, which, despite the heroics of Jimmer, is not the same team without Brandon Davies, who scored 18 points on 7-9 shooting, plus six boards, in BYU’s early-season defeat of UCLA. Speaking of Davies, why is a suspended player allowed on a team bench during games?
At times this year, the Bruins looked like a solid team; at times they were so bad they were totally unwatchable.
But several times, just when they have played as bad as they can, they have come back with a good winning streak. Can that happen in the Tournament?