UCLA will open play in the Pac-12 Tournament on Thursday evening at 8:30 pm PT against the winner of the Southern Cal/Washington game that will be played at 8:30 pm PT Wednesday evening. Assuming there are no upsets, UCLA will more than likely face Southern Cal on Thursday, then the Wildcats on Friday to get to the Pac-12 Championship. They would then likely play Oregon on Saturday. So, basically, the Bruins will play every team they lost to in the regular season in order to win the Pac-12 Championship.
A Pac-12 Championship was on Alford’s To-Do list, according to most fans, in order to prove this was a turn-around season compared to last year. Depending on who you ask, you could say UCLA was one game, or even one shot, away from a regular season championship. However, a third place finish in the Pac-12 behind co-champions Oregon and Arizona was not nearly good enough, despite the success the team had all season.
It is now up to our Bruins, who seemed to be on an upswing in the regular season home stretch, to prove their worth and beat all of these teams a second time.
However, even if UCLA wins out and earns the Pac-12 Tournament Champion title, will it make a difference? Are the Bruins destined to be a three seed in the East no matter the outcome? I truly believe this tournament matters. Not necessarily for moving up, but definitely for moving down. A poor showing next weekend will likely influence the committee in the negative, so a top notch performance is in order. As DCBruins noted in his coverage of last night’s game, even Lonzo knows the "season’s not over. It’s just now starting".
Another looming question...what is the status of TJ Leaf? Brad Leaf, TJ’s father, told the Los Angeles Times that he hopes to hit the court again with a light workout today and return for the tournament next weekend. Here’s to a speedy recovery for TJ and good decision-making on the part of team docs to do what’s best for an athlete with such a promising future.