Sunday, March 16, 2008

UCLA's Road To Final Four Stays Out West

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

Complete 2008 NCAA tournament field of 65 here

UCLA earned the top seed in the West Region of the NCAA men's basketball tournament on Sunday. It is the first top seed for UCLA since the 1995 season when the Bruins last won the NCAA championship.

North Carolina, Memphis, and Kansas earned the other top seeds in the tournament. All four No.1 seed teams each won its conference tournament championship.

The Bruins are now guaranteed to stay out West for the entire NCAA tournament. Their first and second-round games will be played at the Honda Center in Anaheim on Thursday, March 20 and Saturday, March 22; and Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight games at the U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix on Thursday, March 27 and Saturday, March 29. The Final Four is set at the Alamodome in San Antonio on April 5 and 7.

"It's great that we're close to home," Pac-10 player and freshman of the year Kevin Love said. "This is my first time around, so I'm excited for it."

UCLA plays No. 16 Mississippi Valley State of the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) in its first game of the tournament on Thursday. Tipoff is scheduled for approximately 6:50 PM PT

The Delta Devils (15-12, 12-6) received its bid after winning the SWAC conference tournament. If the Bruins win then they will face the winner of the No.8 BYU vs. No.9 Texas A&M contest.

"We don't want to be the first team in the tournament to be the No. 1 seed that loses to a No. 16," UCLA Coach Ben Howland said. "That's going to happen someday. I just hope it's not us on Thursday."

The West Region bracket sets up a potential blockbuster No.1 UCLA vs. No.2 Duke in an Elite Eight match-up.

"I called it a couple days ago, I go, 'If we're a No. 1 seed, they're going to put Duke on our side,"' Love said. "They want to make matchups, they want to make big-time games for TV. We're not looking too far ahead, but I do see it down the road. That would be a fun game to play in."

The rest of the West region bracket:

No.1 UCLA plays No. 16 Mississippi Valley State
No. 8 BYU plays No. 9 Texas A&M,
No. 5 Drake plays No. 12 Western Kentucky
No. 4 Connecticut plays No. 13 San Diego.

No. 2 Duke vs. No. 15 Belmont
No. 7 West Virginia vs. No. 10 Arizona
No. 6 Purdue vs. No. 11 Baylor
No. 3 Xavier vs. No. 14 Georgia

"They're saying we probably have the easiest bracket, which I disagree," UCLA guard Darren Collison said. "You've got to still go out there and win."

Six Pac-10 conference teams made the tournament: Stanford, Washington State, USC, Arizona, and Oregon join UCLA in the big dance. Bubble team Arizona State was left out. Arizona is making its 24th consecutive appearance in the tournament, the longest standing record.

Absent from the tournament are last year's two finalists, Ohio State and two-time defending champion Florida. The Buckeyes were a bubble team that didn't make it, and the rebuilt Gators saw their chances die with a first-round loss in the Southeastern Conference tournament. They're the first defending champs to miss the tournament since Kansas in 1989, when the Jayhawks were on probation.

The Bruins boast a 14-2 record on the season against teams competing in this year's NCAA Tournament.

Two Bruins, Kevin Love and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, are recovering from injuries sustained last week during the Pac-10 tournament.

Kevin Love suffered bask spasms in the Pac-10 championship game against Stanford. He received treatment on his back on Sunday.

"If I stand too long on it, it kind of tightens up on me a little bit," Love said. "By the time we play, I think I'll be fine."

Junior Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was in a walking boot on Sunday in his recovery from a sprained ankle, hoever he is no longer using crutches. He was hurt in the Pac-10 tourney game against USC on Friday.

"It feels good as of right now," Mbah a Moute said. "I can't say if I'll be able to play Thursday, but I'm sure I'll play sometime this week."



At Mar 16, 2008, 4:34:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love our bracket. I'm really hoping for a UCLA-Duke matchup. I'd love to see Love vs. Singler!

At Mar 16, 2008, 4:56:00 PM, Anonymous jake said...

Although I thought Arizona State got hosed ... that's how it goes. I wanted a rematch with texax at some point but duke is even better - if all goes well.
Just hope we can get healthy ... get past the Thursday game and regroup.
Some good stats posted above - 14-2 vs other tourney teams. Pretty impressive.
And might as well kick them while they are down - both ohio state and florida - last year in finals ... this year ... not. Things change quickly around here.
All the more reason to support and admire the bruins for what the program has done thus far.
March Madness is going to be exciting.

At Mar 16, 2008, 7:05:00 PM, Anonymous dan-o said...

I don't think the Duke-UCLA matchup is going to happen. Pretty sure Xavier is going to knock out Duke's soft butt in the Sweet 16.

At Mar 16, 2008, 7:50:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

agreed, dan-o...agreed

At Mar 16, 2008, 8:10:00 PM, Anonymous Larry said...

Where can I find a listing of all the game times??? I've looked high and low, but haven't found anything. PLEASE HELP!
p.s. ever notice how UCLA always seems to play in the last games of the night? Guess cuz they are always out West - YEAH BABY!

At Mar 17, 2008, 5:48:00 AM, Anonymous jojoenglish said...

Congratulations to UCLA for the No.1 seed. Go Bruins. As Bob Knight stated in the ESPN show, No. 1 seed doesn't mean anything compared to the 2 or 3 seed in the West. We still need to go out there to perform. Although I am not a Bob Knight fan, I agreed with what he said. Come to think about it!
I am a die-hard Bruins fan, and I have been following the NCAA basketball games very closely for many years and I would like to share my thoughts with all of you.
You could argue that UCLA is in the "relatively easiest" bracket, but still, as I totally with Ben Howland stated that in an interview after the post-selection show, nothing is easy in the NCAA tournament.
Bruins fans, watch out the potential second opponent, "Texas A&M Aggies", who beat Texas, Washington, Kansas St, and only lost to Kansas by 6 in the Big 12 tourney semifinal. Let's don't forget we lost to Texas and Washington during the year, and you can tell how good the Aggies can be. Although they lost Acie Law to Altanta Hawks this year, they are a very good offensive rebounding team and very well-balanced attack which has six players average 8 points or more this year. Watch out Josh Carter and Joseph Jones!!!
If we get through the first two rounds at Anaheim, another potential matchup in the West Regional semi will be UConn Huskies - a dangerous and underrated team with a lot of poised players who can knock down shots in a cruical moment - watch out A.J. Price (G), Hasheem Thabeet (C), Jeff Adrien (F), Jerome Dyson(G), Stanley Robinson(F). All five guys average 10-15 points per game. During the season, they beat Marquette, Indiana, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, West Virginia, and they lost to Georgetown by 3.
If we get through the West Regional semi, another potential matchup could be Duke or West Virginia (a sleeper team - watch out Joe Alexander). UCLA should have advantage over Duke because of the big fella - Kevin Love which create matchup problems against Kyle Singler or Thomas, Lance Thomas (both of them are 6-8'). Kyle Singler is also out of Oregon, who were two of the elite players out of Oregon, besides K-Love. Duke is a very good perimeter team which spread the floor (such as DeMarcus Nelson, Greg Paulus, Jon Scheyer, Gerald Henderson, and Nolan Smith). If they get hot in shooting, especially with a well-coach, Mike Krzyzewski, UCLA could be in trouble. People who thought that UCLA will be in favor for that potential matchup, but still, I strongly believe that it will be a very very close game which will be decided until the last few possession.
Overall, the road to the Final Four is very tough for UCLA, and don't forget a potential re-match with Texas in the semi-final or a Memphis Tigers is very tough as well, and North Carolina is still the team to beat this year because they have a potential POY - Tyler Hansbrough (23PPG, 10.4Reb/game). You can tell how good he is when his team need him the most when he carried his team to beat Virginia Tech in the ACC semi final.
As a conclusion, we cannot look too far ahead of us. We have to take one game at a time. We can't underestimate our opponent and slack off in the first half, and wake up in the second half and try to catch up (because if one time, we can't catch up in the second half, it will be game-over and no "take two". We always have to keep it in mind that every game especially in the NCAA tournament is our final game, and therefore, we have to perform well, not only the starters, but only to get contribution from our bench as well.
Let's hope and pray UCLA Bruins will get our 12 National Champions trophy / banner back to Pauley Pavillon because sometimes it needs some "luck" (no doubt about it)!
“Failure to act is often the biggest failure of all” - John Wooden

At Mar 17, 2008, 6:59:00 AM, Anonymous BruinFan said...

I hope we are practicing our free throws Bruins... 9 for 22...yikes!!

At Mar 17, 2008, 6:27:00 PM, Anonymous Bee said...

Funny how the ESPN Bracketology guys were saying if Duke beat Clemson and UNC, they'd deserve a #1 seed, and now just two days later, Duke is in the West and we supposedly have the softest bracket.
Do they really think Tennessee is that much better than Duke? I bet if Duke and Tennessee were to go head-to-head, they'd be gushing all over Duke. Love how Duke runs their offense, blah blah blah.
Not to mention that UConn, a #4 seed in our bracket, beat Louisville a #3 seed in the East, when they went head-to-head.
Total East Coast bias. I swear, those guys are in love with the ACC. I mean, Bobby Knight is friends with Coach K, and there are 2 ex-ACC players on the panel, for crying out loud!
I hope the Pac-10 dominates in the tourney this year. I can't stand the East Coast bias. The best way to shut everyone up is the win. Just win, baby!
Go Zona,
Go Oregon,
Go Washington State,
Go (gulp) 'SC,
Go Stanford,
GO BRUINS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
ps. KLove...ONE MORE YEAR! It would be awesome to see you and Jrue play together!

At Mar 17, 2008, 6:50:00 PM, Anonymous watch out FOR said...

Watch out FOR, watch out FOR. I feel like the players you mentioned are going to get hit by rocks or something.


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