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UCLA Basketball Pac-12 Tournament News Roundup: A Holiday to Remember in Vegas

Aaron Holiday led the Bruins into a semifinal game against Arizona.

NCAA Basketball: Pac-12 Conference Tournament - Stanford vs UCLA
Aaron Holiday “arguably the best point guard in the country”
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Holiday didn’t say it but he may be playing with a chip on his shoulder. Holiday outplayed Pac-12 MOP Deandre Ayton, who was a non-factor in Arizona’s win. Holiday also received zero recognition from the national media as he is not even a top 20 finalist for the point guard Cousy award. Suffice it to say, Stanford’s coach disagrees, as Joey Kaufman writes in the LA Daily News:

Stanford coach Jerod Haase called Holiday “arguably the best point guard in the country.”

Steve Alford does not even want to take Aaron Holiday out:

Well, we’ve had some discussions on the bench that’s almost gotten comical. Because one of the coaches will say, hey, we’ve got 30 seconds here before a media timeout. Do you want to give Aaron a blow? And we’ve done that before. And now those assistants look at me – if they do say anything, I just give them that look, like, ‘You’re kidding me, right? I’m not about to take this guy out.’

While I think Holiday needs a blow, I emphatically agree with Alford on the Cousy award:

For him not to be a Cousy [Award] finalist makes zero sense, zero. Statistically he’s off the charts, and he does what none of those other did guards do in the country. He guards the best guard on the other team and does a great job night in and night out defensively for us. That’s the reason he plays 40 minutes. I have incredible trust in him, and he’s a warrior. To me, he could play 50 minutes.

247Sports’ sub headline for their story, which is behind their paywall, sums it up well: The junior point guard had his way with Stanford on Thursday night in the second round of the Pac-12 Tournament, leading the Bruins to an 88-77 win…”

What did Holiday do? The short answer is everything. As the AP writes on

Aaron Holiday saw the lane open and took it -- over and over.

Darting and dashing his way through Stanford’s defense, Holiday matched a career high with 34 points, dished out eight assists and grabbed seven rebounds in UCLA’s 88-77 victory over Cardinal in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals on Thursday.

Or, as the Daily News writes, Holiday has led the Bruins to the NCAA tournament:

Aaron Holiday dribbled almost the length of the court before he pulled up atop the 3-point arc. The shot swished.

Holiday, the buzzing junior point guard, had 34 points, eight assists and seven rebounds to shoulder UCLA in its 88-77 victory over Stanford on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament, a much-needed win that was also viewed as the final hurdle the Bruins needed to secure an NCAA Tournament berth.

The 3-pointer by Holiday in transition in the first half was among the variety of ways he carved up fifth-seeded Stanford’s defense. He was 5 for 9 from beyond the arc. He often split a pair of guards atop the arc and would race into the lane, pushing toward the basket. Sometimes, he finished with a floater. Other times, he absorbed contact from a forward and drew a foul, getting to the free-throw line. It equaled his career-high for scoring, set five days earlier in the regular-season finale against USC.

Holiday had help from Thomas Welsh.

Holiday and Thomas Welsh carried most of the load, leading the Bruins into Friday’s semifinals against No. 15 Arizona. Welsh had 18 points and 11 rebounds. Holiday made 12 of 25 shots, including 5 of 9 from the 3-point arc. . . .

Welsh eclipsed 1,000 career rebounds with his 11 against Stanford, becoming the 14th player in Pac-12 history to eclipse the mark and fifth in UCLA history. He has 1,003 for his career, fourth-most in UCLA history and the 13th-most in Pac-12 history. Welsh went over 1,000 career points in December.

Since we are in the tournament and this is Vegas, the seedy underbelly of the American press shows up. In this case, long time Bruin hater Bill Plaschke. Plaschke’s piece is an attack on Bruin fans and an opportunity for Steve Alford to defend himself as UCLA missed or barely made the NCAA tournament for the third time in four years,.

Although there many low points, it seemed the lowest was on a Saturday afternoon in December when the Bruins were waxed by Cincinnati by 14 points just a week after blowing a 15-point lead in a loss at Michigan.

In talking with Alford after that game, I’ve never seen him more frustrated. Fans wanted him fired, almost as if he had been the shoplifter. His players seemed lost and confused. Yet his message to them remained consistent.

The Daily Bruin writers know more about UCLA Basketball than Plaschke. Of course, he probably likes this as a standard for UCLA basketball:

Their 21st win should give them their fourth NCAA tournament appearance in Alford’s five seasons. What will probably be a low seed could improve with a victory over 15th-ranked Arizona Friday in the semifinals, and the Bruins will gain even more momentum if they’re able to win the unlikeliest of tournament championships.

But, for now, being upright and walking into the dance is reward enough.

No, UCLA should not be satisfied with finishing fourth and going to the Dance. And no, Bill,, they are not unreasonable. But I digress, today all UCLA fans can agree, let’s beat Arizona. Aaron Holiday has earned the last word.

Well, me and Tom are both very confident. Obviously we went into Arizona, tough place to play, and we got the W. We know it’s not going to be easy, especially after beating them there. So I know they’re going to come out hard. We’re pretty confident. We just have to go out there and do what we can do.

Thanks to you, Aaron, we have a good chance. Beat U of pAy and, Bill, go back to the all you can eat buffets downtown and the Keno games at the Four Queens.

Go Bruins!