When various media outlets released their pre-season rankings for this year’s NCAA Men’s basketball, I could understand why the UCLA Bruins earned a spot in the top five.
After all Ben Howland has been leading the denizens of Pauley Pavilion to the Final Four the last three years. Only eight other schools have made the Elite Eight multiple times in the past five years (UNC, Memphis, Florida, Xavier, Louisville, Kansas, Texas, and UConn).
It seemed only logical that the Bruins would grab one of the top spots - at least coming out of the gate.
So when the Bruins trimmed Miami of Ohio 64-59 at Pauley - a game that the Red Hawks led with less than 5:00 remaining in the game - it seemed like nothing more than an anomaly.
UCLA would rebound, re-focus, and move on.
Any signs of re-focusing were quickly dashed when John Beilein’s Michigan Wolverines clipped the Bruins 55-52.
Not to worry. Michigan downed Duke also. The Wolverines must be hot or must be good.
UCLA recovered. They knocked of Southern Illinois and Florida International.
Hey! At least the Salukis have made some noise in recent tournament appearances. It was a good win. The Bruins were back on track.
Ooops. Along came the Pac 10 - Big 12 Hardwood Series and a loss to the Texas Longhorns 68-64.
No problem. The Longhorns are tough. That game was in Austin. It was a close loss.
Ummm….yeah - currently Texas is 17-7 and have fallen into the category of - ‘Others Receiving Votes.’
But the big, bad Bruins took care of business from there with seven consecutive double-digit wins…over Cal State Northridge, the DePaul ‘Carps,’ Loyola-Marymount, Mercer, Wyoming, and Louisiana Tech. I think they worked in a scrimmage during that streak against the Sisters of the Poor.
UCLA opened conference play with a bang - knocking out both Oregon State and Oregon on the road. Of course the Beavers are 10-13, and the Ducks are 6-18 - quack quack.
But wait the Bruins kept things going with wins over USC and Arizona.
Okay the REAL Bruins were showing up now.
The came a three-point loss at home to Arizona State. Hey! C’mon the Sun Devils get after it.
Five days later the Bruins topped Washington State…by two points.
Two days later UCLA completed their tour of Washington with a nine-point loss to the Huskies - another team relegated to the category of ‘Others Receiving Votes.’
No matter. The Bruins learned their lessons and reeled off four in a row against California, Stanford, USC, and the swooning Notre Dame Fightin’ Irish.
The Bruins appeared to be catching their stride just in time for another run in March.
Snap! Arizona State 74 UCLA 67.
Arizona 84 UCLA 72.
For those of you keeping score at home UCLA is 19-6 overall and 8-4 against the Pac 10.
Of course the Bruins have a record of 0-3 against ranked teams.
Against Pac 10 teams with a winning record? 6-4.
So as we spend our time figuring out who should go dancing and who shouldn’t—tell me again: Why is UCLA in the top twenty?