Oregon is UCLA’s best remaining shot at quality win

Dillon Brooks’ last-second 3-pointer on Dec. 28 cost UCLA a win at Oregon

UCLA has the largest disparity between its ranking (10) and RPI (21) of any team in the Associated Press top 10. Only West Virginia (13/33) has a larger disparity in the entire top 25.

In other words, it’s easy to argue the Bruins are getting more credit than they deserve.

UCLA’s chances to boost that RPI are running out. Tonight’s game against No. 5 Oregon at Pauley Pavilion may be its best opportunity to not only add to the resume, but provide convincing evidence UCLA is among the nation’s elite.

The Bruins have two wins against teams with a top-50 RPI: Kentucky (13) and Cal (36). It can be argued that a road win at Kentucky is the only significant feather in UCLA’s cap. For example, Cal lost by 23 at Oregon on Jan. 19.

Of course, Oregon was lucky to beat UCLA on Dillon Brooks’ 3-pointer with .08 seconds left in the Bruins’ first conference game. But despite 21 wins and just three losses, even those shiny totals make it difficult for UCLA to argue it’s a championship-caliber team.

READ: Preview of No. 5 Oregon at No. 10 UCLA

Aside from Kentucky, the Bruins’ nonconference wins simply haven’t held up. It’s not UCLA’s fault, but RPI numbers aren’t much help from Ohio State (69), Michigan (75) and Texas A&M (93), meaning it has to largely prove itself in conference play.

So far, it is winless in two games against the Pac-12’s elite, Oregon and Arizona. It plays at Arizona on Feb. 25 and could easily get another shot or two at either team in the Pac-12 tournament, but tonight is its last home game against the class of its conference.

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UCLA-committed LaMelo Ball scores 92 points after loss

UCLA freshman point guard Lonzo Ball said he didn’t throw any jabs at his two younger brothers after the Chino Hills High School’s basketball team’s 60-game win streak was snapped on Saturday.

The next time they took the court, youngest brother LaMelo Ball scored 92 points on Tuesday night in a 146-122 win over Los Osos High. The sophomore made 37 of 61 field goals (61 percent) and added a cool seven assists. Lonzo Ball showed his appreciation on twitter:

With senior LiAngelo Ball, who scored 72 in a game earlier this season, sitting out to rest up for the playoffs, LaMelo took advantage. The youngest of the Ball brothers didn’t do most of his damage from 3-point range, making 30 of his 39 attempts from inside the arc.

LaMelo Ball, who famously made a half-court shot in the middle of a game earlier this season, was 7 of 22 from 3-point range Tuesday night. He had 29 points at halftime and scored 41 of his 92 in the fourth quarter. High school quarters are eight minutes long. Continue reading

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Lonzo Ball, TJ Leaf focused on NCAA, not Pac-12 title

No. 10 UCLA trails No. 5 Oregon by two games in the Pac-12 standings.

Two days before a game the UCLA basketball team seemingly needs to win to retain hope for a Pac-12 regular season championship, the Bruins’ two best players said they were more focused on a larger goal.

No. 10 UCLA will host No. 5 Oregon on Thursday trailing the Ducks by two games in the conference standings, but Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf are more concerned about how the game effects their preparation for the NCAA tournament.

“Since the beginning of the season the focus was to win a national championship, not the Pac-12 title,” Ball said. “We’re just trying to get ready for March.”

Oregon handed UCLA its first loss of the season on Dec. 28 when Dillon Brooks made a 3-pointer with .08 seconds left in the Ducks’ 89-87 win in Eugene, Ore. UCLA proceeded to lose three of its first nine Pac-12 games, making a conference title difficult to achieve with Arizona and Oregon having lost just one conference game apiece with seven remaining.

The freshman duo of Ball and Leaf was downplaying the rematch when speaking with the media on Tuesday. Continue reading

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How I voted in the men’s basketball AP poll: UCLA moves up

After a one-week hiatus, UCLA returned to the top 10 of the Associated Press poll

UCLA’s ceiling in the polls appears to have been lowered by its loss to USC. Despite seven combined losses in the top 10 last week, the Bruins’ 2-0 week earned them a single spot.

Maybe UCLA has officially been branded as a team that can’t play defense at a high enough level. Or once the shine came off the best offensive team in the country, voters are taking a harder look at a schedule that has limited UCLA’s RPI to No. 23.

I’m giving UCLA more credit than most voters, but awaiting the Bruins on Thursday is one of two remaining chances in the regular season to have a significant positive effect on its standing. Despite a loss to Colorado two weeks ago and a one-point win over Arizona State last week, Oregon got plenty of respect for its 27-point win over Arizona on Saturday.

The Ducks jumped eight spots and finally returned to the Associated Press poll’s top five. During a week where the AP top 10 posted a combined record of 12-7, three teams fell out of the top 10. UCLA was one of the three that was voted into the top 10, but the other two leapfrogged the Bruins. Virginia, Kentucky and West Virginia fell out. Oregon, North Carolina and UCLA moved in.

North Carolina has one more loss than the Bruins, but its RPI is 4 compared to UCLA’s lowly 23. Until the Bruins beat one of the best two teams in their own conference, UCLA will continue to be passed over by teams from other conferences even if the Bruins have a better record.

How I voted in the men’s basketball Week 14 AP poll:
1. Gonzaga
2. Villanova
3. Kansas
4. Baylor
5. Oregon

Even with Dillon Brooks back in the lineup, the Ducks have been all over the map of late, but a 27-point win over Arizona is too strong of a statement to discount in any way. Oregon has now snapped a 13-game UCLA winning streak and a 15-game Arizona winning streak this season.
6. Arizona
The fact that Arizona lost to Oregon isn’t shocking in itself, but the 27-point margin was difficult to digest. The Wildcats were probably playing the most consistent basketball in the country with Allonzo Trier back in the lineup, but their 15-game winning streak ended with a thud.
7. UCLA
The Bruins looked so lost while being defeated at USC two weeks ago that simply earning two road wins last week went a long way toward restoring credibility. UCLA’s RPI is still lagging at No. 22 in the country, but a massive opportunity awaits the Bruins when Oregon comes to town Thursday.
8. Louisville
9. North Carolina
10. Florida State Continue reading

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UCLA routs Washington as Lonzo Ball wins duel with Markelle Fultz


Lonzo Ball versus Markelle Fultz was the only dramatic aspect of UCLA’s 107-66 win at Washington. The No. 11 Bruins, who figure to move up in the rankings after another chaotic weekend in the top 10, ran away early with a game they eventually led by 44 in the closing minutes.

Fultz and Ball, the focus of 21 NBA scouts in attendance for Alaska Airlines Arena’s first sellout in five years, were the game’s two leading scorers with 25 and 22 points, respectively. Ball made 7 of 12 field goals and added six rebounds and five assists. Fultz was 9 of 19 from the field with six rebounds and five assists.

The difference was three other UCLA players with at least 20 points. Bryce Alford had 21 and TJ Leaf and Aaron Holiday had 20 apiece. Fultz had little help from his friends in coach Lorenzo Romar’s most lopsided loss in his 15 seasons at Washington.

The blowout gave the Bruins their 21st win earlier than any other season in school history. The victory sets up a matchup on Thursday with Oregon at Pauley Pavilion with massive implications in the Pac-12 race.

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