Arizona’s Sean Miller is regarded as one of the best college basketball coaches to have never made the Final Four, but will UCLA’s Steve Alford accomplish the feat first?
The UCLA basketball team has proven it’s good enough to dispatch even middle-tier Pac-12 competiton with relative ease. There is, of course, always the possibility the No. 3 team in the country will fall victim to an upset. That aside, UCLA is left with less than a handful of pivotal games on the schedule. Saturday is one of them.
A win over No. 14 Arizona will leave UCLA with just a single loss to an 11th-ranked Oregon team it’s going to face again. A loss to Arizona and UCLA will have two sizable hurdles between it and a Pac-12 championship – UCLA hosts Oregon Feb. 9 and visits Arizona Feb. 25.
Remember when the Bruins were breezing through a relatively weak non-conference schedule, save Kentucky? They are still in need of quality victories, as their 118th-ranked schedule, according to kenpom.com, would indicate. A win over Arizona would be a significant piece of UCLA’s NCAA tournament resume.
Similar to UCLA’s signature win this season at Kentucky, Arizona provides an opportunity to see how some of the best young talent in college basketball matches up against each other. Lonzo Ball will try to push the pace against the best defense in the Pac-12. TJ Leaf will face off with another potential lottery pick in Arizona’s 7-foot Finnish freshman Lauri Markkanen.
There is plenty of intrigue surrounding the first matchup of top-20 teams at Pauley Pavilion in nine years.
Links to our pregame coverage of UCLA versus Arizona:
Former UCLA offensive coordinator Kennedy Polamalu jumped back to the NFL coaching ranks Friday, as he officially joined the Minnesota Vikings coaching staff as the running backs coach, the team announced.
Polamalu was fired after one year as UCLA’s offensive coordinator last season when the Bruins went 4-8. He was replaced by Jedd Fisch earlier this month.
Polamalu last coached in the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2005-09. The 53-year-old coach is one of several Vikings with UCLA ties as former Bruin linebackers Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks also play in Minnesota.
It’s hard to blame them. Bryce Alford tied the same record with nine 3-pointers in a game a week earlier. It’s probably just understood at this point that No. 3 UCLA is so special offensively, breaking records just comes with the territory.
Hamilton wasn’t one of the three players made available to the media after the game because the senior guard was getting stitches after suffering a lacerated tongue. But making 9 of 14 attempts from 3-point range and scoring a season-high 33 points had to mean a great deal to him after a recent shooting slump during which he made 4 of 34 attempts from beyond the arc range over a seven-game stretch.
Hamilton made 4 of 5 3-pointers a week ago, seemingly pulling out of the slump during a win at Colorado, where UCLA set a school record with 19 3-pointers. But Hamilton followed that with a 1-for-7 performance from beyond the arc in Saturday’s 83-82 win at Utah. He made 7 of 8 from 3-point range in Thursday’s first half alone, outscoring Arizona by himself, 25-21, by the time he made his seventh with 6:08 left in the first half.
“Obviously, he’s back,” Lonzo Ball said. “I like playing with him when he’s like that.”
Links to our coverage of the 102-80 win over Arizona State: