THIS WEEK’S BEST BET
NCAA MEN’S TOURNAMENT BRACKET:
Sunday at 3 p.m., Channel 2:
If you’re judging it simply on style points, UCLA’s basketball team didn’t necessarily dazzle anyone with last season’s first Vegas-hosted Pac-12 Tournament. Although the Bruins came in as the regular-season champs and the top seed, and then made it to the tournament final shorthanded only to lose to Oregon, who can overlook the way it all started – a sluggish win over Arizona State wasn’t as distracting as the new “impact camo” uniforms that Adidas forced UCLA’s roster wear. While it wasn’t the full blue T-shirt and crazy striped pants ensemble that had alums and students writing letters of desperation athletic director Dan Guerrero, a less gaudy white version had the Associated Press nonetheless refer to it as something that “looked like pajamas.” The unis were retired after that game, and eventually, so was Ben Howland, whose team lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to Minnesota.
Gearing up for this year’s post-season festival, the Bruins are back in some new Adidas garb, something the company calls the “most advanced uniform system and basketball apparel technology so they can take on the challenges and intense play of March.” Seems like an unfair advantage for Steve Alford’s bunch, doesn’t it? These navy and gold T-shirt tops are “inspired by the Los Angeles skyline at night,” the Adidas folks say. That’s all fine, as long as the Bruins don’t get caught up in the nightlife.
UCLA (23-8, 12-6) may have finished with the No. 2 seed, but it isn’t scaring anyone after a head-scratching loss at Washington State in the final conference game. The Bruins start the Pac-12 event on Thursday (6 p.m., Pac-12 Network) against either Oregon or Oregon State. USC (11-20, 2-16) end up as the No. 12 seed and open the tournament Wednesday against Colorado (2:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network). A UCLA win puts it in Friday’s semifinal (8:30 p.m., FS1), targeting Saturday’s final (3 p.m., FS1).
The Pac-12 Tournament is expected to produce a No. 1 seed for the 68-team NCAA event, even as Arizona (28-3) lost its regular-season finale to Oregon. The Wildcats are also hoping to land a spot in the West bracket that opening in San Diego and goes through to the regional finals in Anaheim. Other probable No. 1 seeds stand with 34-0 Wichita State (which clinched the Missouri Valley Conference tournament), current No. 1 ranked Florida and then it’s a toss up among Villanova, Virginia, Kansas or Wisconsin. With more of a rooting interest in how San Diego State lands – and always trying to find out where Duke lurks — we’ll wait to see how the brackets break out, then listen to the experts who told us so.
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