Bruins have a big game coming up on Thursday night. I am excited about it. UCLA-Arizona is always fun. I am looking forward to reading DC and others thoughts on the game. Here is the thing though. I don't believe we are going to win Thursday night. I think it's the Arizona State game which is the key contest in this road trip.
I looked through some numbers and I hope I got them right. UCLA has won this game on the road just 7 times since 1988 - the start of Jim Harrick era. The victories came during the following seasons:
It is not very difficult to figure out the common denominator during those seasons. All of those seasons resulted in regular season Pac-10 regular championships with deep runs in the tournament. I do not expect any of that to occur this season. It took championship level effort from special Bruin squads from the post Wooden era to beat Arizona in Tucson. While the current Bruins are showing some positive signs not sure they are going to be championship caliber program by the end of the season. Right now we are just hoping these guys can qualify for the tournament without backing into it through one of those goofy "First 4" silly play in games.
Seems to me that we should temper our expectations despite our victories in our last 4 must win games. The way our young guys gutted out those victories deserve praise. Still we should remember they came against pretty mediocre teams on the road and average teams at home. No disrespect intended for our friends from the Bay Area but neither Cal nor Stanford are NCAA tourney caliber teams. These are games we expect UCLA to win at home even during rebuilding seasons.
What I am trying to articulate is this. I don't believe our 4 game winning streak will extend to 5 against Arizona in what has always been a tough game for UCLA. For the short term, I do not think Bruins will win on Thursday night. That means they should feel no pressure against the Wildcats. Right?
What I do expect though is the Bruins to bounce back with a much needed road victory against a really bad Arizona State team. We have not won a game there since 2007-08 season. We should be able to get a win this year. At 1-6 (9-10) the Devils are stuck in the Pac-10 basement. Their RPI is around 120. They are really bad team. We should beat them.
Bruins are going to have a hard time picking up road wins against Washington Schools and getting a split in Bay Area, which is always a difficult trip. So the Arizona State game is the next "must win" game in what will be a string of "must win" contests during rest of this season for the Bruins to get back to the Dance.