Play Fantasy Use your Fantasy skills to win Cash Prizes. Join or start a league today. Play Now
Blog Entry

UCLA is still the pick despite its struggles

Posted on: March 23, 2008 12:21 am
Edited on: March 23, 2008 8:53 pm

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Yeah, I'll stick with UCLA as my pick to win the national championship.


That was some finish, huh?

And though I know many will look at the Bruins' 51-49 too-close-for-comfort win over Texas A&M and use it as evidence that this team isn't playing like a national title contender, I'll go the other way and tell you that what transpired Saturday night actually provided further evidence that this team is built to win a national title -- the way it defended like crazy, the way it battled back from a deficit, the way it had bigtime playmakers making bigtime plays down the stretch.

I mean, how many teams have clutch playmakers as good as Kevin Love and Darren Collison? Those two combined to make one winning play after another in the final minutes -- Love with fall-aways and Collison with driving layups. Poor Texas A&M seemed helpless late, incapable of stopping either future first-round draft pick. So now Love and Collison and the rest of the Bruins will head to Phoenix, where they'll meet Western Kentucky or San Diego in the semfinals of the West Region.

Also in the Sweet 16: Washington State and Stanford.

That's another storyline from Saturday.

The Cougars dominated Notre Dame while Stanford edged Marquette, meaning three Pac-10 schools are in the Sweet 16. Only the Big East can top that number, but for that to happen it'll take Georgetown beating Davidson (likely), Villanova beating Siena (probable) and Louisville beating Oklahoma (probable) on Sunday. West Virginia has already advanced thanks to Saturday's victory over Duke.

Sticking with that theme, here's a look at how the Sweet 16 will look by league assuming all of Sunday's favorites advance ....

(Editor's note: It's stupid to think all the favorites will advance, so keep that in mind)

Big East: Four (West Virginia, Georgetown, Louisville, VIllanova)
Pac-10: Three (UCLA, Stanford, Washington State)
Big 12: Two (Kansas, Texas)
Big Ten: Two (Wisconsin, Michigan State)
ACC: One (North Carolina)
SEC: One (Tennessee)
A-10: One (Xavier)
C-USA: One (Memphis)
Sun Belt: One (Western Kentucky)

So again, if the favorites win Sunday then the Sun Belt will have as many Sweet 16 participants as the ACC and SEC.

That just sounds funny, doesn't it?
Category: NCAAB

Since: Apr 1, 2007
Posted on: March 23, 2008 9:19 pm

UCLA is still the pick despite its struggles

Every national champion is challenged at least once during the tourney.

Last year, Florida barely escaped from Oregon.

UCLA was dominating against Mississippi Valley State on Thursday, turning in a historic defensive performance to hold them to 29 points and under 20% shooting.  Then, UCLA struggled with A&M.

In a very analogous situation, UCLA dominated Florida International in 1996, then struggled all game in the second round against Missouri.  It took a mad dash up the court by Tyus Edney with under 7 seconds left and a circus lay-up over a 7 foot defender for UCLA to survive that game.  Despite that one struggle against an inferior team, UCLA went on to win the title.

I agree that if Shipp, Westbrook, and M' bah a Moute do not show up and contribute something offensively against Western Kentucky in the next round, then either Xavier or West Virginia, then the Bruins going home early with a very disappointing showing in the tourney.   But,  there is no questioning UCLA's defense after the A&M game.  Nor can there be any doubt that Collison is one of the best point guards in the country, Love is one of the best centers in the country, and Howland is one of the best coaches in the country.  UCLA still has all the ingredients to bring home a title, regardless of their struggle against A&M.

Since: Oct 26, 2006
Posted on: March 23, 2008 6:47 pm

UCLA is still the pick despite its struggles

Well the whole concept of "favorite" comes from the line, which comes from Vegas. UCLA started the weekend as the 7-2 favorite to win it all, followed by UNC at 9-2. My guess is UCLA will still be the "favorite" when the new lines come out tomorrow, I am going to say 5-2 or 3-1, followed by UNC at 7-2 or 4-1. I have my money where my mouth is, at 7-2, because it's destiny baby, destiny...all the teams know the only way to beat UCLA is to hammer them, but Love gives as good as he gets, even when double teamed (just ask the Lopez twins...).

As to the fouls, those things even out over the game and the tournament, it was ever thus and will be ever thus. Only the losers complain about officiating...and the only objective, inarguable fact is the scoreboard, everything else is subjective foo foo rah.

The top seed in the Big East is out, and the three top seeds from the Pac 10 are still in. I don't know for sure what that means but I think it means the Pac 10 is clearly the best at this point. And I can't wait for next weekend to see what happens.

Since: Jan 23, 2008
Posted on: March 23, 2008 2:36 pm

UCLA is still the pick despite its struggles

One more thing while I'm thinking about it.  The main reason to look at CBS Sports and read Parrish and Freeman is to see how ridiculous they will look after they've reversed themselves thirty times and made ignorant statements about college basketball.

I hope you're right about UNC.  In a one-shot situation, UCLA looks pretty good.  I think in a five-game or seven-game situation, UNC is the better team.  Even so, I'd keep the tournament just like it is now (only with the improved officiating I mentioned in the last post).

Since: Jan 23, 2008
Posted on: March 23, 2008 2:31 pm

UCLA is still the pick despite its struggles

You know, UCLA is very good and they have been very lucky, too.  Dean Smith used to say you have to be good and lucky.  I do think the way a game is officiated has a role to play.  Allowing lots of contact is good for UCLA, Michigan State, Pitt, Georgetown, Wisconsin,etc.  Calling a game by the rules is better for Kansas, Texas, Carolina, Tennessee, Memphis, etc.  Unfortunately, teams don't know which style will be in force during the games they play.  Much like the NBA, you have one kind of officiating in the regular season, and another in post-season.  On top of that, expectations vary from conference-to-conference.  This makes for an un-level playing field.

There is a rule book and a committee, but they are focused on things like coaching decorum.  Maybe they should be focused on what constitutes allowable contact and being consistent during games and throughout the season.

Also, don't put too much stock in which conferences are better than others.  Some years the pundits are right, and in others they miss it completely.  Memphis plays in a weak conference, and it may cost them down the road; then again, it may not.  UNC and UCLA play in tough conferences, but that doesn't guarantee them a long run in the tournament.  At this stage, it's about each team, and not too important which conference they come from.  Besides, if a really good team from a power conference loses a game, that doesn't prove anything other than there was an upset.

Since: Dec 22, 2007
Posted on: March 23, 2008 1:04 pm

UCLA is still the pick despite its struggles

If they get the chance, Carolina will pick UCLA's bones clean.

Since: Jan 12, 2007
Posted on: March 23, 2008 12:53 pm

UCLA is still the pick despite its struggles

UCLA seems to lack that killer instinct  that's needed to win a national championship, I agree they are a great team with plenty of talent to get it done, collison is probably the best guard in the country, I just don't see them getting past memphis or north carolina because they have had to come back and steal alot of games in the final minutes this year, if you get behind one of those two teams they ain;t going to give them that oppurtunity

Since: Mar 12, 2008
Posted on: March 23, 2008 12:44 pm

UCLA is still the pick despite its struggles

just shows all the arguing over how strong the acc and sec were way off. both leagues were down this year and the tourney showed this. UNC still has to get by arkansas too. wouldn't that be wonderful to not have one acc team in the tournament sweet 16...ESPN wont have anything to talk about anymore.

Since: Dec 30, 2006
Posted on: March 23, 2008 12:18 pm

UCLA is still the pick despite its struggles

In one sense, (even if Villanove wins), the Big East having  four  schools in Sweet 16 does not actually top the Pac 10 having three schools.  The Pac 10 has 30% of its conference in whereas 4 schools from Big East only constitute 25% of its 16 member conference.

Since: Mar 15, 2008
Posted on: March 23, 2008 10:05 am

UCLA is still the pick despite its struggles

--the way it defended like crazy, the way it battled back from a deficit, the way it had bigtime playmakers making bigtime plays down the stretch.

No, not "defended." Fouled. Fouled. And fouled. And got away with it.

Battled back from a deficit...of ten points...against Texas A&M...who was the sixth-best team in the Big 12...and who Kansas beat a combined total of 23 points.

Yes, absolutely. Bigtime playmakers made bigtime plays down the stretch, when it really mattered. For example, this was a particularly "bigtime" play made by Josh Shipp:

Since: Nov 6, 2006
Posted on: March 23, 2008 3:31 am

UCLA is still the pick despite its struggles

Feel free to rationalize UCLA's performance anyway you choose, Parrish, but it's clear there are quite a few question marks. Coming into the tourney, I had UCLA as a solid Elite Eight team. I've still got them going down to Xavier in the Elite Eight and I'll tell you, the Musketeers impressed me quite a bit more than the Bruins. Then again, the Mountaineers impressed me more than both. The thing with UCLA was not its defense. It's defense played great (that's to be expected however when the much smaller Aggie backcourt thinks it's a good idea to penetrate and go to the rim against Goliath underneath). It was the offense, or more specifically, the supporting offense that intrigued me. Because, see, it didn't exist. If UCLA expects to get past Xavier/West Virginia and then get past Memphis/Stanford/Texas, the supporting cast is going to have to show up a lot better than it did tonight. This was not a case of UCLA winning. It was a case of TAMU losing. It had the upset on its radar, and its stupid mistakes down the stretch cost it the game.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or