Early in the season, I was stubborn about ranking UCLA above other teams with similar records. My reasoning? A team that finished with a losing record last season needed to earn their standing more so than the other elite teams near the top of the rankings. UCLA was the only team in the entire preseason top 25 that finishing under .500 last season.
At this point, I think the Bruins have earned it. I was just one of three voters to rank them No. 1, likely because Villanova (2) and Kansas (4) each have a much higher RPI than UCLA (17). But it’s not UCLA’s fault that Michigan, Ohio State and Texas A&M aren’t any better this season.
What UCLA does best – run and shoot 3-pointers – it does better than anyone in the country. I’m not sure that Kansas and Villanova can say that. I don’t think either of those two teams can say they have the best player in the country, either. Lonzo Ball has made a legitimate case for that honor.
How I voted in the Week 11 men’s basketball AP poll:
The Bruins are coming off their first sweep of Pac-12 road games in Steve Alford’s tenure, a comfortable win at Colorado and a squeaker at Utah, which is looking like a top tier conference foe. It shouldn’t be forgotten UCLA’s one loss was on a last-second 3-pointer to an Oregon team looking like a juggernaut right now.
Last week’s AP poll No. 1 team still has the top RPI in the country even with a loss. I think Baylor was unfairly dropped to No. 6 by the voters because their one loss this week was so lopsided. And it should be noted the 21-point was to West Virginia, the No. 7 team in the country.
5. Kentucky Continue reading
UCLA basketball remained at No. 4 in the AP poll this week despite Villanova’s loss.
Villanova’s first loss of the season should have positively affected UCLA’s ranking, in my opinion. But the Bruins were not part of the shift at the top of the AP poll today
that dropped former No. 1 Villanova to No. 3, bumped Baylor to No. 1, Kansas to No. 2 and left UCLA at No. 4 for a second straight week.
To its credit, Villanova has the top RPI in the country, but neither of its big wins – at Purdue and at Creighton – are as impressive as UCLA’s biggest win, at Kentucky. It can be argued that Villanova’s schedule is deeper than UCLA’s, but the Bruins are gaining ground in that respect now that they’re into Pac-12 play.
I dropped USC out of my poll after Sunday’s loss to Cal. I still believe the Trojans are a NCAA tournament team that will finish in the top tier of the Pac-12, but the shine is starting to come off USC after its undefeated run through a weak non-conference schedule.
How I voted in the Week 10 men’s college basketball AP poll:
The Bruins are still maturing, which is scary considering how good they already are, but have been dominant when focused. Thursday’s first half against Cal is a prime example when UCLA built a 20-point first-half lead on a team that will easily make the NCAA tournament and finish in the top tier of a good conference.
5. Villanova Continue reading
At the end of the season, I think UCLA’s win over Ohio State will be its second-best non-conference victory behind Kentucky. But it wasn’t enough to move the Bruins any higher than No. 3 on my Associated Press poll ballot – or No. 2 in the actual AP poll.
No. 1 Villanova’s non-conference schedule has admittedly not been a murderer’s row. But across the board, it has been more difficult than UCLA’s. The Bruins’ best win (Dec. 3 at Kentucky) is better than Villanova’s best win (Nov. 14 at Purdue), but the Wildcats’ RPI is 18 spots higher than UCLA’s for a reason.
How I voted in the Week 7 AP poll:
I think UCLA’s victim on Saturday, Ohio State, was a very strong opponent and will prove that over the course of conference play in the Big Ten. I think the Buckeyes will be a much better team than Michigan, for example, and the NCAA tournament committee will appreciate that on selection Sunday.
5. Duke Continue reading
Nobody can call UCLA’s schedule soft after the Bruins paid a visit to Rupp Arena on Saturday. It didn’t hurt that Kentucky was No. 1 when UCLA took down the Wildcats, 97-92, but what most impressed me was that the Bruins did it in such a hostile environment.
In most cases, college-age athletes are far more susceptible to the affects of a raucous crowd than professionals. And this is a UCLA team with three true freshman playing large roles, including your starting point guard. I somehow still ranked UCLA lower than its landing spot in the AP poll, but we are now talking about Westwood being home to a national championship contender and one of the best teams in the country.
How I voted in the Week 5 AP poll:
There is a good argument for UCLA to be ranked No. 1 in the country given that they beat Kentucky on the road and Villanova’s best win is at Purdue. But Baylor has played a tougher schedule than any of the top three.
5. Duke Continue reading
Wooden Legacy tournament MVP Lonzo Ball helped UCLA climb three more spots in the AP poll.
UCLA has climbed three spots in the AP poll each of the last two weeks, landing at No. 11 this week. The Bruins proved their freshmen can deliver in close games, but I’m most interested in the way they’ve won against opponents with contrasting strengths. For example, UCLA didn’t have a player who could matchup with Texas A&M preseason All-SEC center Tyler Davis. But the Bruins found ways not to get dominated in the paint or on the boards by a physically superior Aggies team.
UCLA still has plenty to prove, which is why I don’t have them ranked as high on my ballot, but it deserves credit for finding ways to beat every team on the schedule seven games into the season.
How I voted:
6. North Carolina
I was a late arrival to the Baylor party because I wasn’t convinced by the win over Oregon sans Dillon Brooks. But two more wins over ranked teams this week, including Louisville, and maybe Kansas better start watching its back in the Big 12.
9. St. Mary’s
The Bruins achieved their first two wins over power 5 opponents this week. While Texas A&M and Nebraska aren’t world beaters, UCLA handled its business and proved its freshmen can deliver in close games. Continue reading