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UCLA Basketball Tournament Hopes: Nervous Time

DC Bruins does his best to break down UCLA’s chances at the Big Dance.

NCAA Basketball: Stanford at UCLA
UCLA will likely need to drive past Stanford to get into the tournament.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

I think the UCLA Bruins are in the NCAA tournament right now. ESPN’s bracketology has the Bruins as a part of the Last Four Byes. CBS’ Jerry Palm has UCLA in the play-in game. However, the consensus bracket has the Bruins in the First Five Out. What does this all mean? We win and control our destiny.*

In the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament, UCLA is scheduled to play the winner of the first round game between 7 seed Stanford and 10 seed UC Berkeley. Stanford is ranked #30 in the NET rankings and just ahead of the Bruins in most brackets. If UCLA beats Stanford, the team has another good win. They might even knock Stanford out of the tournament. Of course, this means Stanford is likely playing for its tournament life as well. Actually Stanford losing to UCLA is worse for them than UCLA losing to Stanford is for us as losing to UCLA would be a bad loss in the NET rankings.

If the tournament goes to form, we would play 3 Seed Arizona State next. Arizona State is #52 in the NET rankings and a likely 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Ironically, the win over Stanford would be better in the NET rankings. That said, I still think UCLA makes the tournament with a win over Stanford and a loss to ASU. However, Bruin fans definitely don’t want big conference tournament upsets, such as a team having a bad year, winning a major conference tournament.

If the Bruins win two games, I think they are in, regardless of how they do in the Championship game.* At that point, they are playing for seeding.

Now, for the asterisk. I feel very confident that if UC Berkeley beats Stanford and UCLA loses to them, they are out. UC Berkeley is ranked #148. This is a case where I buy my tickets for the NIT finals in New York City.

Let’s keep going the asterisk route. Let’s say the team beats Stanford but #11 seed Washington State wins two games and the Bruins are facing them in the semifinals instead of ASU. WSU is 119 in the NET Rankings. I think a loss to them, even with a win over Stanford puts the team out.

I could keep this going. I guess the bottom line is we need a “good” win in the tournament and no “bad” losses. A good win is a win over anyone already in the tournament by the predictions and a “bad” win is over anyone not in the tournament. On the other side, a “bad“ loss is a loss to anyone not in tournament and a “good” loss is a loss to someone in the tournament. “Bad” wins over teams not in the tournament do us little good.

Before I go any further with this insanity, let’s look at a list of the Pac-12 teams in order of NET rankings with Pac-12 tournament seed in parentheses and their ESPN tournament guestimate seed in brackets. (All rankings are as of 3/9.)

12. Oregon (1) [4]

14. Arizona (5)[8]

23. Colorado (6)[7]

30. Stanford (7) [11, play-in]

45. Southern Cal (4) [9]

52. Arizona State (3) [10]

55. Washington (12)[na]

71. Oregon State (8) [na]

76. UCLA (2) [11]

85. Utah (9) [na]

119. Washington State (11) [na]

148. UC Berkeley (10) [na]

Bottom line in order of confidence:

  • UCLA wins the Pac-12 Tournament, they are guaranteed to be in.
  • UCLA loses to UC Berkeley (which has to first upset Stanford), they are out.
  • UCLA beats two teams in the top 52 NET rankings, they are in.
  • UCLA beats Stanford and loses to ASU or Colorado they are in.
  • UCLA loses to Stanford and a team not in (like Oregon State) wins the Pac-12 Tournament, they’re out
  • UCLA beats UC Berkeley but loses to ASU or Colorado, they are likely out but could sneak in. Bruin fans have to hope for no upsets elsewhere. (very nervous time)
  • UCLA loses to Stanford and a team already in wins the Pac-12 tournament, they’re probably out.

If I have confused you, let’s put it this way: UCLA needs a good win and no bad loss to get in. A bad loss likely puts them out. A bad win is meh. The hardest scenario is any combination of bad wins and a good loss. In this case, lack of a good win could knock the team out of the tournament or they could sneak in but, in all cases, they will need some help.

Go Bruins!!! Beat NorCal!