The University of California Los Angeles (4 Seed Sothern Bracket)
Record: 26-8 (12-6 2nd in Pac 12)
Coach: Steve Alford
Tournament Berth: Pac 12 Tournament Champion
Big Wins: Arizona, Colorado
Big Losses: Arizona, Duke
What a difference a year makes. A different coach, a different attitude and a different style of play have vaulted UCLA back up the standings in the Pac 12 to a place this storied program belongs. Along with a handful of other schools, UCLA is college basketball royalty, but after missing the NCAA tournament two of the past four season the Bruins seemed like more of a jester. Enter first-year coach Steve Alford, and the Bruins are back in business. Alford has infused the program with a breath of fresh air and positive vibe that has this team believing it can go places. The Bruins have won five of their last six, including three straight wins over probable tournament teams, and have positioned themselves for a possible top four seed in the NCAA tournament. It is hard to argue with the results as UCLA would appear to be heating up at just the right time.
C – Travis Wear
F – Kyle Anderson
F – David Wear
G – Norman Powell
G – Jordan Adams
Who’s Hot: Everyone. At least it seems that way for Alford’s crew. The Bruins are rolling behind an offense that is running on all cylinders at the moment. Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson are particularly hot at the moment, dominating the stat sheet and making big shots a common occurence for UCLA. Arizona is reputed to be the best defense in the country and experts figured they would lock down the potent Bruin offense in the Pac 12 final. That did not happen. UCLA posted 75 points on Arizona, easily the highest total the Wildcats gave up in the tournament and they also made over 80 percent of their free throws against Arizona.
Who’s Not: This is a tough call with the Bruins playing the way they are. Not only is the offense thriving at the moment but the defense has been good as well. UCLA gave up more points this year than they did under Howland, but that is more about the pace of play than it is actual defense.
Outlook: The outlook for UCLA is about as good any team that does not have a number one or two seed. Alford has a young squad that gets up and down the floor and plays with a lot more freedom than they have in recent memory. The results have been a fast paced, and athletic team that is not afraid to make mistakes. Plus they are a joy to watch. UCLA has a chance to make a real run during the NCAA Tournament given the place they are in now. Everybody wants to be playing their best basketball at this time of the year. The Bruins are actually doing it.
Commentary by Mick Varner