Sometimes, these previews just write themselves.
Any best-case scenario for the UCLA Bruins making a run through the Pac-12 Tournament and earning the conference’s automatic bid had to start with the Bruins getting a blowout in their first-round matchup with the Stanford Cardinal, as that would allow the team to rest the starters for the four-day ordeal. And for 30 minutes, that’s what happened! UCLA looked locked-in on defense, played well on offense, and could have gotten away with 25 minute performances from the starting unit.
And, then, it all went to hell.
The Bruins let the Cardinal back into the game, allowing easy baskets, missing free throws, and generally doing the things that have become an all-too-familiar sight for Bruin fans during conference play. Even though the Bruins eventually pulled away in the final 30 seconds, the performance did nothing to inspire any confidence in this upcoming matchup against the Arizona State Sun Devils.
Of course, when it rains, it pours, and for UCLA, the cost of winning was David Singleton, who fractured his foot in the final minute while contesting a three-point attempt. The Bruins’ recent run of “improved” play coincided with Singleton’s insertion into the starting lineup, so losing his steadying presence and 3-point shooting is a big blow to a team that is already down Prince Ali, and features a guard rotation of only Jaylen Hands and Jules Bernard. Considering coach Murry Bartow already has issues with lineup management as-is, I can’t imagine this will help things.
Being short-handed against the Sun Devils just compounds what was already shaping up to be a tough task. The Bruins lost their only meeting with Arizona State back in January, a 84-73 loss that had the Bruins actually leading at halftime before fading completely in the second half. The Sun Devils enter this game rather hot, winning 6 of their last 8, including games against Washington and Oregon State, but this is the same Arizona State team that can fluctuate between looking like world beaters (like knocking off Kansas at home) and looking awful (like getting blown out by Washington State at home). So anything is possible here.
If you would like to read anything positive about this game, or UCLA’s chances, then here’s something for you. For UCLA to win this game, the stars have to shine bright. It is at the very least comforting to know UCLA was able to beat Stanford despite Hands and Kris Wilkes going for a combined 10 for 32 from the field, and Moses Brown only scoring 2 points in 14 minutes of action. With the loss of Singleton, these guys have to play better for the Bruins to have any shot to win this game and the entire tournament.
No pressure, guys.
Hey, if worse comes to worse, then, at least, this season will finally be over.