Could Lonzo Ball have a Kemba Walker-like performance in the NCAA tournament and lead UCLA to national title? Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images
The last time a team from the Pac-12 conference (or Pac-10) made it to the Final Four, Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook were teammates for Ben Howland’s last of three consecutive runs into the first weekend of April. That was 2008, nine years ago this season. In fact, no team from even west of Norman, OK has still been dancing when the field slims to four.
And none have won a national title since Lute Olson’s 1997 Arizona team.
With the Final Four being played in Arizona this year, is 2017 the year the Western drought ends?
Jon Wilner rates the chances of four final four contenders (and few more) from the Pac-12 and West Coast Conference.
4. UCLARecord: 23-3
State of the Bruins: As dangerous offensively as any team in the country — four rotation players shoot 43 percent (or better) from 3-point range — and in possession of a singular talent (Lonzo Ball) capable of carrying his team to the biggest stage. But too many starters want no part of having to defend consistently.
Final Four prospects: Unlike the three teams listed above, the Bruins need favorable matchups in order to reach the semifinals. If they get sucked into a grinder early in the tournament … by a mini-Virginia, for example … that could be it.
More looking ahead to the tournament form Myron Medcalf at ESPN. He looks at which players, Kemba Walker-style, could will their teams with some obvious flaws to a championship with three weeks of dominating performance.
Top of the list? He’s got Lonzo Ball.
But the Bruins don’t defend like national champs. Only one champion (since 2001-02) has finished outside the top 20 in KenPom.com’s adjusted defensive efficiency rankings — North Carolina was 21st in 2008-09. The Bruins are ranked 126th. They do fly behind the game’s most exciting player, though. And he’s clutch. Ball led UCLA to that win over Oregon with Magic Johnson sitting in the front row. He. Does. Not. Feel. Pressure. Could UCLA lose its first game of the NCAA tournament? Sure. Could Ball carry the Bruins to a national title? Definitely.
Inside UCLA writer Clay Fowler breaks down how he voted in the AP rankings, where UCLA came in at #6 after a weekend sweep of the Oregon schools in Pauley Pavilion.
The Bruins so desperately needed Thursday’s win over then-No. 5 Oregon. Even with a win over the Ducks that looks like the best victory on its resume, UCLA is still struggling to get respect from the tournament committee, which projected it as a No. 4 seed.
Fowler voted the Bruins in the six spot, as well.
More from Wilner, but this on the gridiron, who ranks the “quarterback comfort levels” of each Pac-12 team for 2017.
Comment: Too low for a team with Josh Rosen? Perhaps, but as with everything else these days concerning the Bruins, the Hotline is highly skeptical. Yes, Rosen is a huge talent, but he’s a huge talent coming off a shoulder injury — the best predictor of future injury risk is an actual injury — and has not exactly proven himself to be an ideal leader. Behind Rosen? Mike Fafaul is gone, leaving only a handful of freshmen as options. Devon Modster is the best bet for the No. 2 role.
I still haven’t figured out his enduring beef with Rosen…
The Bruins played indoors for the first time this season, but it was no matter: they defeated unranked Tulsa 7-0 on Monday.
Check out some behind the scenes footage from Thursday night, when legendary broadcaster Dick Enberg was honored at Pauley Pavilion.