UCLA's offense is legitimately a joy to watch. Even cynics such as Bill Plaschke have to admit it:
Since the start of the Pac-12 Conference tournament, the Bruins have won five consecutive games against five NCAA tournament teams by an average of 16 points. And they're not just winning in a big way, they're winning the right way.
They're not making mistakes - they committed just three turnovers Sunday against a notoriously harassing Lumberjacks defense. They are not being selfish - they had 22 assists on 29 shots, an amazing ratio in any league.
"Probably not another NCAA tournament game yet today that had 22 assists and three turnovers," said Alford, before using that word again. "Our assist/turnover ratio has been a lot of fun."
While Anderson and Adams get the headlines, Norman Powell is hard to overlook.
A key factor in that link was Norman's hustle on defense. Yes, the offense has been great but the defensive effort has been good as well. UCLA had too much talent (as IE Angel also wrote) for its first two opponents in the tournament.
But UCLA, with its huge size advantage on both of its first two opponents, and an offense loaded with potential NBA prospects, showed little interest in entertaining Cinderella stories.
Up against a Lumberjacks defense with the fourth-highest turnovers-forced rate in the nation, the Bruins coughed the ball up just three times. Their offense attacked the basket early and often, with 42 points in the paint. And from elsewhere, UCLA rarely missed, shooting 55 percent.
. . . Jordan Adams shot 8 of 12 and led the way for UCLA with 19 points. Kyle Anderson, after a slow start, settled down in the second half and finished with 15 points, eight rebounds, and five assists. Norman Powell, continuing his March renaissance, racked up 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting. As the clock ticked down, for the second straight game, Steve Alford put in his walk-ons.
Jack Wang points out that UCLA wins have both come over double digit seeds but, on the other hand, UCLA "never looking" truly at risk for an upset.
"We're putting UCLA back on the map," forward David Wear said.
Then again . . .
"There is no celebrating," Jordan Adams said. "We haven't done anything yet."
Or . . .
"This means a lot to everyone in here," guard Norman Powell said.
Yet . . .
"They don't hang Sweet 16 banners in Pauley Pavilion," guard Kyle Anderson said.
For those who have followed UCLA the last couple years, you will not be surprised at Tony Parker's take being a little bit different.
As Tony Parker walked off the floor and approached his seat, the 6-foot-9, 255-pound big man grabbed UCLA director of operations Tyus Edney, who became a Bruins legend after his miracle shot against Missouri in the 1995 NCAA tournament, lifted him off the ground and held him as though he were a child.
"You know, Tyus Edney is a lightweight, so it was kind of easy," Parker joked. "Just little Tyus. I'm from Missouri, so I always mess with him. My whole family is from Missouri, so he hit the lucky layup. My grandpop makes sure I mess with Tyus every day. ... That layup was the lottery for Tyus. I love him, he's a great guy."
A picture is here. Everyone is having "fun" after years of not so much fun.
Will Florida again spoil UCLA's party? An early Florida take is here.
For the fourth time since 2006, the Gators will face the Bruins in March Madness play. This time, it will be in the Sweet 16 on Thursday, when South Region top seed UF faces fourth seed UCLA at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tenn. The Stanford vs. Dayton game tips off at 7:15 p.m. Thursday on CBS, with the UCLA-Florida game to follow, likely around 9:45 p.m.
Florida is 3-0 in the previous three meetings with UCLA, beating the Bruins 73-57 in the 2006 NCAA title game, 76-66 in the 2007 Final Four and 73-65 in a 2011 Round of 32 game.
All three of those wins came with Ben Howland as UCLA's coach. UCLA is 28-8 this season under first-year coach Steve Alford, who replaced Howland last season. The Bruins are led by a dynamic backcourt duo of sophomore point guard Kyle Anderson (14.7 ppg, 6.6 apg) and sophomore guard Jordan Adams (17.4 ppg).
The Gators, the tournament's top overall seed, are the only team in the country to reach the Sweet 16 in each of the last four seasons. Florida (34-2) has won 28 straight and is looking to take the next step after having each of its previous three seasons end in the Elite Eight.
Again, to everyone's credit, they know that they have to keep it up.
UCLA is back in the Sweet 16 for the first time in six seasons, a big step in the right direction for a program whose tradition was tarnished in recent seasons.
The Bruins don't want to stop there.
"It's a great feeling," Anderson said. "This is what guys come to UCLA for. A storied program, this is what you want here. We've beaten some good teams lately and now we've got the Florida Gators. This is what I know Jordan and myself came to UCLA for. We're going to have some fun with it."
The Bruins have won five straight and seven of eight overall, including an upset of Arizona, the No. 1 seed in the West, in the Pac-12 tournament championship game.
"It's a special thing and we're looking forward to next week," said Alford, who helped Indiana win the 1987 national title. "These two guys to my left have had an awful lot to do with it," he said, referring to Adams and Anderson. "Kyle and Jordan have been tremendous all year with their leadership and they brought and raised the bar for their teammates, and that's a special trait to have."
The best way to keep it fun, would be to beat the Gators.