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The UCLA Rule and UCLA in College Basketball

UCLA got lucky in 2015 but it did not the previous three NCAA trips

After years of screwing UCLA, the NCAA changes the rules to stop a "lucky" UCLA.
After years of screwing UCLA, the NCAA changes the rules to stop a "lucky" UCLA.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

UCLA's  "undeserved entry" and "lucky tournament" run has caused the NCAA to change its seeding rules.  As Yahoo's Dagger writes (emphasis added):

The first change ensures that the last four at-large teams voted into the 68-team tournament field no longer automatically are sent to the First Four. Now the selection committee has the freedom to elevate one or more into the main draw if the ensuing seed scrubbing process reveals they a stronger resume than a team initially voted in ahead of them.

This change should be known as the UCLA rule even though the NCAA's release makes no mention of the Bruins. It's a clear response to the uproar over UCLA receiving a spot in the NCAA tournament's main draw last March when many analysts were skeptical Steve Alford's team even had a resume worthy of the First Four.

UCLA's inclusion in the main draw ahead of the four teams sent to the First Four and at-large snubs Temple and Colorado State was controversial because the Bruins were 4-12 away from home on the season and had only beaten four top 100 RPI opponents all season. The furor lingered even after UCLA proved itself by advancing to the Sweet 16, a run aided in part by a dubious goaltending call in the opening round against SMU and a cushy round of 32 draw against 14th-seeded UAB.

Or as ESPN writes:

Last March, the last four at-large teams were Dayton, Boise State, BYU and Ole Miss. UCLA and Texas, two teams which were late at-large adds but not the last ones, weren't compared to those teams. Now they can be.

The men's basketball selection committee can now take teams who were already voted into the field and compare them against the last four. That means the selection committee could have compared Ole Miss [the highest-ranked team among the last four] with UCLA and decided the Rebels were more deserving of a regular spot in the field and avoid the First Four.

I am not going to argue the Dagger's points.  I am going to instead make two observations in response.

Karma Goes Both Ways

Yes, UCLA got a nice and arguably undeserved seeding in 2015.  But how about the previous years when the NCAA had screwed UCLA?

In the three previous times in the NCAA Tournament -- 2011, 2013, 2014 - the NCAA scheduled UCLA to face University of Florida in the tournament (UCLA lost in the round of 64 in 2013 preventing the matchup from happening).  It is not like Florida and UCLA are geographically close.  Yet the three previous times UCLA had made the tournament they were scheduled to play Florida, arguably the biggest bugaboo of recent UCLA basketball after beating UCLA in the championship game and final four.

2013 was especially egregious seeding.  UCLA won the PAC 12 regular season, beating Arizona among others, but yet they were shipped out to potentially play Florida while Arizona played in the West with an easy path to the Sweet 16.  UCLA had not only beaten Arizona for the regular season championship, they also beat them in the semi-finals of the PAC 12 tournament.  Of course in that game Jordan Adams had broken his foot.  The NCAA used that excuse to screw UCLA.

I guess I can understand the NCAA lowering UCLA's seed but why, on the body of work for the season, was UCLA sent away while an inferior Arizona team was rewarded and allowed to stay in the West.  Arizona got a major break when under talented Harvard upset a higher seed New Mexico (ironically coached by Steve Alford) and had an easy path to the Sweet 16.

And for those who follow UCLA closely during the Ben Howland years there are a few trends that make this even more relevant.  Howland made ALL his deep tournament runs from western seeds and on the other side of the coin never made it deep in the tournament from a non-western seed.

If the NCAA had not screwed Ben Howland and the Bruins in 2013 history may have been radically different.  If Howland can beat a #11 Belmont and #14 Harvard that was Arizona's path, UCLA plays at LA for a chance to go further.  More importantly, can Dan Guerrero fire a coach who just won the PAC 12 and took UCLA to the Sweet 16 or more?

So yep UCLA got "lucky" in 2015 but only after getting screwed by the NCAA for years.

UCLA is Still a King

Don't let anyone tell you that UCLA is not relevant in college basketball.  UCLA may be in a down time or have off year(s) but UCLA is one of the schools that the college basketball universe revolves around.  If everything that happen to UCLA in the tournament last year happen to say Ole Miss, no one outside of Mississippi would be talking about it now.  The NCAA would not be changing a rule.

UCLA is a major player in college basketball and incredibly relevant no matter the details of a given coach or time period.

Go Bruins.