NCAA TOURNAMENT – ROUND OF 64, SOUTH REGIONAL:
#4 UCLA BRUINS (26-8) vs #13 TULSA GOLDEN HURRICANE (21-12)
Friday, March 21, 6:57 p.m.
Viejas Arena, San Diego, CA
TV: TruTV (Channel 246 for Direct TV subscribers)
In roughly 35 hours from this writing UCLA’s basketball team, winners of more NCAA men’s basketball championships than any other school with 11, will begin play in the NCAA Tournament for the 46th time in their history.
The opponent in the Bruins’ first game will be a team from Tulsa, OK that beat them in the first round 20 years ago, 112-102, giving them motivation for their 1995 title run.
Not than any of the current players care about that too much as they were all either babies or not born yet when that loss happened.
As a fun fact, UCLA will be going for their 100th win in the Big Dance against Tulsa.
All right, enough preliminaries; what do I see the Bruins’ fate being in this year’s tourney?
First, unlike in the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas, Bruin Nation should be much more of a force in San Diego with a lot more fans in blue and gold making their presence, which Steve Alford’s team will very much appreciate and feed off of.
At first glance this Golden Hurricane squad, coach by former college superstar and Los Angeles Clipper Danny Manning, induces worry due to their current 11-game winning streak.
One should keep in mind that that winning streak was against Conference USA teams like Rice, East Carolina, Florida Atlantic and UTEP – not exactly Duke, Michigan State, defending champion Louisville or top-ranked Florida (more on those Gators in a bit).
And with all due respect, Conference USA basketball is not exactly on the same level as the Atlantic Coast Conference or the Big Ten.
In short, Tulsa hasn’t really played anybody as the only top 25 team they have faced this year was undefeated Wichita State on November 20 – and lost to them by 23 points.
Add to that the fact that their leading rebounder is a 6’3″ guard James Woodard, combined with UCLA, while not being the best up front, outsizes Tulsa with the Wear twins, David and Travis, and even 6’9″ Tony Parker, who is foul-prone but is a force inside when he plays well…
That leads to me concluding that the Bruins – assuming the team that beat 4th-ranked Arizona in the Pac-12 Tournament title game will show up – shouldn’t have too much of a problem against Tulsa as they will be the first team from a power conference that the Golden Hurricane will see.
In fact, I’ll be a little bold and say that their third round game should be a win as well, regardless of whether it’s against Virginia Commonwealth or Stephen F. Austin.
Which means that I agree with President Barack Obama and have my alma mater in the Sweet Sixteen, where just like in 2006, 2007 and 2011 they will be beaten by the number one seed in their regional, Florida.
UCLA will do well enough to make it to the Big Dance’s second weekend and play in the Sweet 16, but will not be ready to go any further than that and lose to the Gators.
Whether I end up looking like someone knowledgeable or not will depend on which Bruin team shows up in San Diego.
And I dearly hope that the team that won the Pac-12 tourney is the one that does.