The UCLA Bruins have had a pretty good week. Convincing victories over SMU and UAB send UCLA to the Steve Sixteen. The Bruin baseball team swept the Youths, and did so in convincing fashion. On Monday, we heard BOOM after BOOM as Coach Mora continues to attract top talent. Tomorrow, our Women's team plays Northern Colorado in the WNIT Sweet Sixteen after winning their two opening games.
The Steve Sixteen is attracting most of the attention, though, as it should. And as might be expected, this edition of Bruin Basketball Bites is going to consist pretty much of nothing but bulletin board material.
But it's not all bad. In The Dagger, Jeff Eisenberg ranked the Sweet Sixteen in order of most to least likely to win, and we weren't Number 16. He points out that the Bruins are better: "They're defending with more urgency, they're getting the ball to the post and they're benefiting from a Bryce Alford hot streak, which is why they're probably more of a threat to Gonzaga now than in a 13-point loss in December."
All is not that rosy in the world of the interweb. Zach Kempner of numberFire (which you metrics people might like - to say it confused me would be an understatement) brightened our day by letting us know that the HAL 9000 Computer at his command gave us a 2% chance of making it to the Final Four. Alas, HAL won't be opening that pod bay door for us - he says our chances of winning the whole thing aren't too good.
The thing is, we won't be playing one of the Coach-lead, undefeated UCLA juggernauts of the past. We'll be playing a mortal team, coached by a mortal guy. One criticism of Gonzaga (by a Gonzaga alum) is that the team gets beat the same way in the NCAAs - by a strategy which forces the opponent to beat them with 3s, among other perceived defects. There is precedent for that theory. We have several guys who are threats from three point land.
The betting sites (no link provided - you're on your own) don't think we have much of a chance. We're 81/2 point underdogs, and I was unable to find even one "expert" thought we could beat Gonzaga during my little internet search. Well, we were underdogs against Smoo, too. I vote that we stick our thumbs in the odds-maker's eye. After all, we kept our streak alive in the State of Kentucky, and we want history to repeat itself in Houston.
Last but not least is something from Pat Forde on Yahoo Sports. There are quite a few interesting tidbits, not the least of which is this disquieting piece of information:
Records of teams against the Sweet 16: Arizona 5-0; Kentucky 3-0; Notre Dame 7-1; Wisconsin 3-1; Duke 7-3; West Virginia 2-1; Oklahoma 2-2; Gonzaga 1-1; North Carolina State 3-4; Utah 2-3; North Carolina 3-7; Louisville 1-5; UCLA 1-7; Wichita State 0-1; Michigan State 0-3; Xavier 0-0.
That doesn't bode well for us. Sigh.
Anyhow, I disagree with Forde's suggestion that there are no Cinderella stories in the tournament, because Byron Wesley qualifies. This guy was stuck in the scullery of the most run-down tenement you can think of in the great Kingdom of Basketball - he toiled for the trogan basketball team, while watching his ugly step-sisters, the football team, get all the handsome suitors calling on them and presenting them with gifts. Then out of nowhere comes Mark "Prince Charming" Few, and now Wesley is dancing at the Ball, and has a chance to live happily ever after.
You know, I never really liked that story. Let's turn that carriage back into a pumpkin. Go Bruins!