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UCLA Basketball: Bruin Bracketology

UCLA is on everyone's bubble list. Unfortunately, the consensus is that they are on the wrong side of 68 team dividing line. We'll take a deep dive into the bubble. How would the Bruins get an NCAA bid?

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The community consensus sees the NIT in UCLA's near future. As of this writing, with 825 total votes, NIT bid leads NCAA by 53% to 47%.

Let's review what the most popular professional bracketologists say. As of Noon, Thursday, March 5, here's the summary (this changes after every bubble-related game.

Bracketologist Last 4 In First Four Out
ESPN (Joe Lunardi) Indiana BYU Davidson Temple Texas Tulsa UCLA Miami
CBS Illinois Texas A&M Boise St. Tulsa BYU Miami UCLA Stanford
NBC Texas A&M Boise St. BYU Tulsa Illinois Temple UCLA Old Dominion
SB Nation N.C. St. Colorado St. Oregon BYU Temple Illinois Texas UCLA
Yahoo Illinois BYU Texas A&M Temple Davidson Texas Miami UCLA
Team Rankings Old Dominion LSU Texas Temple Connecticut UCLA Purdue Indiana
Composite Tulsa Purdue BYU Boise St. Davidson Texas Illinois UCLA

They all have UCLA in the last four out.

What will it take for the Bruins to get into the tournament? I think we can all agree that beating Stanford and then Arizona in the semifinal of the PAC-12 Tournament would result in a lock bid. Winning the P12T earns the conference's automatic bid plus would result in a much better seeding -- probably in the West.

But what we're really trying to divine right now is whether UCLA can get into the NCAA's if they lose to Arizona (assuming Arizona advances). In this case, we are really talking about slots 65 through 68.

Let's take an in-depth look at the bubble team resumes (according to the composite):

School Conference RPI Rank SOS Rank Overall Record Conference Record Next Opponent
Davidson Altlantic 10 38 123 21-6 12-4 VCU/Duquesne
Texas Big 12 39 8 18-12 7-10 Kansas St.
BYU West Coast 40 79 23-8 13-5 None
Boise St. Mountain West 45 126 23-7 13-4 Fresno St.
Tulsa American 47 98 21-8 14-3 SMU
UCLA PAC-12 49 30 19-12 11-7 None
Purdue BIG 10 58 69 19-11 11-6 Illinois
Illinois BIG 10 61 59 19-11 9-8 Purdue

Of course the conference tournaments need to be played, and forecasts will change constantly right up until the Sunday afternoon brackets announcement on March 15. But what could observations can be made based on what we know now?

1)      Of the eight bubble teams, UCLA has the second best SOS next to Texas. This one boggles the mind. Texas has a 7-10 conference record, but the Big 12 is thought of as one of the top two conferences this year (the ACC being the other one). Despite their record, Texas has a better RPI rank than UCLA, 39 -49.

2)      UCLA has the sixth best RPI of the eight bubble teams. If RPI is the main committee criterion, then this is bad news.

3)      Purdue and Illinois play each other, and the loser may be knocked out of the bubble in a bad Big 10.

4)      Texas and Davidson still have challenging games to play.

Perhaps Texas and Purdue drop off, but who are the other two teams the Bruins can jump? There are many rating systems, but Kenpom would suggest that Tulsa and Boise State (assuming Illinois beats Purdue at home) are the next best candidates.

The uncertaintly tells me that UCLA has to win two games.

Oh, the complications. What if Arizona got knocked off in the quarterfinals?