March 19, 2008
Each the last two seasons, the UCLA Bruins have had a team that would have won the national title most years. Both of those seasons, however, they ran into the buzz saw called the Florida Gators.
This year, however, the "04s" have moved on and the Bruins are looking better than ever heading into the Big Dance
First Round: Mississippi Valley State (17-15)
The SWAC champions shouldn't give UCLA any trouble; the biggest issue here will be the health of Kevin Love and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. Love has said he expects to play, but if I were coach Ben Howland, I would consider resting him until the second round. Mbah a Moute is expected to be healthy by then, so look for the Bruins to be full strength by the weekend.
The one thing that would be great for Bruin fans to see in this game would be strong outside shooting. Outside of their opening round victory over Cal in the Pac 10 tournament, UCLA's shooting has been atrocious. If they can't start hitting from outside, that will be their Achilles heel all the way to San Antonio.
UCLA wins in a walk, 86-59.
Second Round: BYU (27-7)/Texas A&M (24-10)
This game could be interesting for the Bruins, no matter who they play. They match up better against BYU, because BYU's offensive strength is UCLA's defensive strength (outside shooting), but BYU has already beaten Louisville and taken UNC to the brink this year. They won't be intimidated by UCLA, and could give them a real battle.
UCLA escapes, 71-64.
Texas A&M, on the other hand, is a little harder to figure out. They have the size in DeAndre Jordan to limit Kevin Love's productivity, and their frontcourt should be able to keep the Bruins off the offensive glass. But they simply won't have an answer for Darren Collison. After watching him tear apart Stanford last Saturday, it's clear that he's completely healthy. Bad news for anyone that plays UCLA.
UCLA wins fairly comfortably, 72-61.