Brown already has a successful blueprint to follow in fellow former Bruins linebacker Eric Kendricks, who is listed at exactly the same measurements as Brown. Kendricks, a second-round draft pick by the Minnesota Vikings in 2015, had three 100-tackle seasons at UCLA and won the Lott Impact Trophy and the Butkus Award in 2014. He was named to the Pro Football Writers of America NFL All-Rookie team in 2015.
We are two Sundays away from selection Sunday, and two things happened over the weekend that improved UCLA's potential seeding: beating Arizona in Tucson, and Gonzaga's loss at home to unranked BYU. The win at Arizona gives Steve Alford's squad a second mightily impressive win on the road to add to their December upset of Kentucky in Rupp Arena, and Gonzaga's loss clears the way for a Pac-12 team--likely the tournament champion unless a team outside of Oregon, Arizona, or UCLA crashes the party--to be #1 in the West.
UCLA is up a couple of seeds in the bracket today after its win at Arizona on Saturday night. I have been hesitant to move the Bruins up too quickly since the selection committee revealed their rankings two weeks ago. At that time, they had UCLA pretty far down compared to Oregon and Arizona due to strength of schedule, or more accurately, weakness of schedule. There is still a gap between the Bruins and most of the other teams in the bracket, but it is closing some.
UCLA has an interesting profile. The Bruins have arguably the best pair of road wins of anyone. They won at Arizona and Kentucky. Kansas also won at Rupp Arena and has a road win over Baylor. UCLA’s non-conference schedule ranks in the 250s though, and that, combined with a relatively weak Pac-12, is holding its overall strength of schedule down. And as the committee demonstrated in its top 16, it may also end up holding Steve Alford’s team down in the bracket.
But if the Bruins win out and win the conference tournament, they'll be in the West; and that, as we all know, matters more than the number next to their name.
Lunardi at ESPN could only move the Bruins up to a 3-seed, but has them trending up.
Pat Forde has notes on the Bruins in his weekly Forde Minutes column at Yahoo Sports, including the Bruins in a group of Five Final Four contenders whose mid-season tweaks have turned them into real contenders.
UCLA (5) has gotten its players past defensive indifference and closer to something like defensive zeal. Or at least an acknowledgement that defense matters. After surrendering 80 or more points five straight times from Jan. 12-25, the Bruins have held seven straight opponents to less than that – and won all seven games. Using Ken Pomeroy’s numbers, UCLA’s defensive efficiency ranking has improved more than 30 points in the last two weeks, from 126th to 94th. And when you pair that with the No. 1 offense in the country, it could be a sustainable equation.
3. UCLA Bruins
Lonzo Ball and the UCLA Globetrotters -- I mean, Bruins -- have put on a show unlike any we've seen in recent years. But the soaring Bruins can't expect to reach the Final Four without a more consistent defensive effort. No team that finished outside the top 25 in adjusted defensive efficiency in the KenPom.com era, beginning in 2001-02, has won a national championship. Among all the title teams during that span, North Carolina in 2009 had the worst ranking at No. 21. And UCLA entered the week ranked 94th. That's an issue.
The women's basketball team swept both Arizona schools on the road over the weekend, and earned the 4-seed in the Pac-12 tournament, giving them a first-round bye this weekend in Seattle. The Bruins will face the winner of Arizona State and Utah.
The UCLA baseball team won their three-game series against Gonzaga over the weekend, coming back to beat the Bulldogs 5-4 on Sunday. The Bruins are back in action against Cal State Northridge on the road tonight.
In the second weekend of the Mary Nutter Classic, UCLA softball won three of their contests and lost two--both losses came to squads ranked higher than the Bruins, #4 Oklahoma and the top team in the country, Florida State.
The basketball teams weren't the only Bruins to hand defeat to the Wildcats over the weekend. The UCLA gymnastics team defeated Arizona at Pauley Pavilion, with the Bruins posting their second-highest score of the season.