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What’s Bruin: UCLA Basketball Heading into a Top Five Matchup in Tucson

News and notes from around the UCLA-iverse.

NCAA Basketball: UCLA at Arizona State
"Hope your ankle's okay, bro."
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Men’s Basketball

The tale of Pac-12 (or 10) basketball has always been a tale of two programs. Once Lute Olson went to Tucson in the eighties, despite a handful of upstart seasons from programs like Oregon, Washington, and Stanford, Pac-12 basketball—shoot, West Coast basketball—has always been about UCLA and Arizona (sorry, Zags).

They are the last two programs to have won national championships, and the only two programs to reach the Final Four in the new century.

Yet, it has been rare in the last twenty or so years that both Arizona and UCLA have been playing elite ball in the same season, which is what makes tomorrow’s matchup in Tucson all the more special.

Jeff Eisenberg at Yahoo Sports has the column:

When Arizona was a fixture in the top 10 late in Lute Olson’s tenure, UCLA only sporadically played up to its talent level under Steve Lavin. When Ben Howland led the Bruins to three straight Final Fours by reinstilling defense and discipline, the Wildcats floundered in the midst of a tumultuous coaching transition. And by the time Sean Miller returned Arizona to national prominence, UCLA was already in the throes of an abrupt decline.

That history of near misses is what makes Saturday’s showdown in Tucson feel so special. Finally, we get to see Arizona and UCLA square off with both at their peak.

Eamonn Brennan begins his weekend preview of games at ESPN with the now familiar story that what Oregon, UCLA, and Arizona are really playing for is seeding in the Western region. While the Bruins may be facing ever longer odds to win the conference regular season title, a spot in the West is still in play.

Odds are at least two of the Pac-12's top three will end up somewhere outside the comfy confines of the West Region. Joe Lunardi's Thursday bracket gave the Ducks the nod, with Arizona as the No. 2 seed in the Midwest, and UCLA as a No. 4 in the South. How far could the Bruins move up the seed line with a win at Arizona? Could another marquee win over UCLA give the Wildcats preference over the Ducks?


Kyle Bonagura at ESPN's Pac-12 blog takes a look at what game is a "must-win" for the football team in the 2017 season (Colorado), and what might be the biggest "trap" game for the Bruins (Utah).

Despite their record last year, the Bruins have the players for a quick rebound and what better opportunity to announce their return than a home game against the defending division champions? The game against Colorado is UCLA’s first home game of conference play and comes after an important game against Stanford the previous week. If it loses to Stanford, an 0-2 conference start would be deflating, and if it beats Stanford, then a win against Colorado would be key toward building off that momentum.

The NFL draft approaches, and the combine is next week—after which, much hand-wringing (and hand-measuring) will ensue. But how do things stand now? And more importantly, for Bruins hoping to play on Sunday?

Sports Illustrated ranks the top 50 prospects before the combine; Takkarist McKinley is 22nd on their list.

His motor is ... well, imagine turning off the "fatigue" slider on a video game. He cranks it up and never stops. That’s problematic for OTs, because McKinley also brings balance and speed off the edge.

Sporting News goes 50 further to rank a top 100, and has McKinley as the 27th best prospect, with cornerback Fabian Moreau the only other Bruin coming in at 75th.

Women's Basketball

The women's basketball practice court in the new Mo Ostin Basketball Center will be named the Ann Meyers Drysdale Court, after the Bruin legend.

Enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. as a player in 1993, Meyers Drysdale's basketball career, which began with her becoming the first high school player to make a United States National Team in 1974, is still going strong in what is now its fifth decade of groundbreaking accomplishment. Following high school, Meyers Drysdale embarked upon another series of firsts, becoming the first woman to receive a full athletic scholarship from UCLA, the first NCAA division player ever to record a quadruple-double, the first four-time Kodak All-American – male or female, the first female to be inducted into the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame, and, with her husband, Dodger pitching great Don Drysdale, the first married couple to be inducted into their sports' Halls of Fame. In 2012, the U.S. Basketball Writers Association renamed its Women's National Player of the Year Award, the Ann Meyers Drysdale National Player of the Year Award, in honor of her impact on the sport.

Women's Swimming and Diving

The UCLA women's swimming and diving team sits at 5th place after day 2 of the Pac-12 Championships.

I Know It's Friday, but...

... is it Saturday yet?