In less than a month, college basketball teams will be playing 40 minutes in the NCAA tournament that will extend or extinguish their seasons.
A team that flat-out crushed its opposition over five months, won its conference and regular season tournaments and rolled into the NCAAs with just a loss or two could be finished playing before the first weekend is out.
Gonzaga did that last year. A team that went 31-2 in the regular season (16-0 West Coast Conference), was awarded a No. 1 seed but got knocked out by a No. 9 seed in the third round, their second game.
On the other side, an average regular-season team that enters it "hot" has a chance to fight all the way to the pinnacle. UConn's 2011 team with Kemba Walker—a nine loss squad that finished at .500 in the conference—won the Big East Tournament and sprinted all the way to the title.
Because of its stakes and sudden death format, it is the most cruel and thrilling tournament in sports.
A peaking team is one that is playing its style and taking and making the shots it prefers, while forcing opponents into uncomfortable spots. There is an unmistakable flow and confidence to groups that have entered this zone, and it makes all the difference in the world in March.
UCLA has every option in the field available to it, from a deep and swaggering run to a tournament flame-out. What follows is what the Bruins must do to peak during the season's most important month.