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What’s Bruin: Winning the Hearts of Poll Voters, Losing the Hearts of Bracketologists

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News and notes from around the UCLA-iverse.

NCAA Basketball: Southern California at UCLA
Bryce Alford continues to climb up the UCLA record books.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Men’s Basketball

The UCLA basketball team is now ranked 5th in the AP Poll, boasts the country’s most efficient and fast paced offense, and owns a road win against Kentucky. Poll voters have loved the Bruins all the way up to a #2 spot at one point, and respect the Pac-12 conference with three teams from the league (Arizona, UCLA, Oregon) owning spots 4-6 in the AP Poll.

But what say you, Bracketologist?

I guess it’s still not enough to do any better than a 4-seed in March?

From Ben Bolch in the LA Times, a romance from the polls, but unrequited love in the brackets.

The problem lies with some of the more advanced statistics. The Bruins have an NCAA Ratings Percentage Index of 19 and the Pac-12’s RPI is sixth, last among major conferences.

UCLA’s schedule is also an issue. The Bruins’ strength of schedule checks in at 89, according to analytics expert Ken Pomeroy, largely because of a nonconference strength of schedule that ranked only 290 out of 351 teams. Scheduling four games against Big West Conference teams might have been a bit much, but the Bruins couldn’t have foreseen that Nebraska (12-14), Texas A&M (14-12) and Ohio State (15-13) would all be having down years.

Oh, but the Bruins have a shot for a signature win on Saturday.

Bryce Alford continues to climb into the UCLA record books. Being a four-year player means scoring a lot of points in your career, while many of college basketball’s elite talents leave after a year.

Clay Fowler at Inside UCLA writes about Bryce’s path to being one of the top-five scorers ever to wear the Four Letters.

The senior’s 26 points in UCLA’s blowout win against USC on Saturday moved him into seventh on UCLA’s all-time scoring list with 1,802. With four games left in the regular season in addition to any Pac-12 and NCAA tournament games, he is just 13 points behind Ed O’Bannon and 44 from surpassing Toby Bailey to move into the top five.

Matt Norlander at CBS Sports, who’s been ranking the top freshmen in college basketball each week, believes Lonzo Ball has all but sealed his spot as the Freshman of the Year.

For the third straight week, Ball’s created a little more separation at the top of the list. Because Fultz and Smith are not putting up bat-bleep-insane numbers, and their teams are so bad, the race for National Freshman of the Year is nearly sewn up. Josh Jackson has an outside chance to leap over Ball, but it wll take some bad play by Lonzo and a couple 25-plus point games from Josh to make that a reality. Because so many of Ball’s 2-point attempts are within five feet of the hoop, his 2-point rate is ninth-best in college hoops. For a guard, that’s unheard of. Against USC, he had 15 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, in addition to four turnovers. He’s so close to wrapping this up, and he’ll also be UCLA’s first consensus All-American choice since Kevin Love.

TJ Leaf is #7 on the list, and UCLA will see the guy who Norlander named freshman of the week on Saturday: Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen.

Baseball

The UCLA baseball team lost their Tuesday night matchup with UC Riverside, despite a dominating performance by left-handed pitcher Justin Hooper.

Hooper was originally slated to start the game, but came in as a reliever due to rain delays shifting around the Bruin pitching rotation.

Dunk Contest With Lonzo Ball

UCLA student Kevin Wei challenged Lonzo Ball to a dunk contest before the season (on an 8-foot rim) and somehow this video is now only coming to see the light of day.

I can tell you this, I’d rather get dunked on by Lonzo Ball than tackled by Myles Jack...

GO BRUINS.