VIDEO: Norman Powell talks about UCLA’s preparation for SMU

Senior Norman Powell is nearing the end of his UCLA career, and with the No. 11-seed Bruins poised as an underdog against sixth-seeded SMU, he said he and his teammates just need to relax.

“The great part of this is you’re one of the teams left able to play,” he said. “Go in there, have fun, play loose. Nobody expects us to win, so it’s all about just playing UCLA basketball.”

The guard also talked about how the Bruins need to attack SMU’s big men with ball screens, potentially guarding point guard Nic Moore, and the improvement of the team’s zone defense.

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UCLA likely out of NCAA Tournament after loss to Arizona

Heading into last night’s game between UCLA and Arizona in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinal, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi had the Bruins as one of his first four teams out of the Big Dance. Their eventual 70-64 loss at the MGM Grand Garden Arena likely seals that fate.

Here’s a roundup of our coverage from Las Vegas on Friday night:

– UCLA will probably miss March Madness for the third time in six years, but one or two possessions could have changed all that.
– Mark Whicker’s column on the fight the Bruins showed at Arizona, even if they fell just short.
– The game story from UCLA’s loss to the Wildcats, the second team this season that the team faded late in a close contest against its conference rival.

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UCLA basketball prepares for 2015 Pac-12 Tournament

UCLA arrives in Las Vegas for one last chance to show that its worthy of a spot in the Big Dance.

The Bruins enter the Pac-12 Tournament likely needing two wins to feel secure heading into Selection Sunday, but that would almost certainly mean knocking off top-seeded Arizona in the semifinals.

“This team has a lot to prove, I think,” said UCLA point guard Bryce Alford. “We know what we’re capable of. I don’t know if the nation knows that yet. We haven’t really done all that much to show what we’re capable of. But we know it as a team. We’ve seen glimpses of it. … I think we can beat just about anybody on any given night. We’ve got to go out there and prove it.”

The competition starts today at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, with a first-round game between USC and Arizona State that will determine who UCLA faces at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday. The Trojans and Sun Devils tip off at 2:30 p.m. today.

“I’d want to play against Arizona State, just because we let one slip away up there,” said senior Norman Powell. “It was a close game. Honestly, whoever wins that game, we’re just going to go at it the same way.”

RELATED:
– Norman Powell reflects on his UCLA career, one that saw him blossom in transitioning from Ben Howland to Steve Alford.
– UCLA heads to Las Vegas still hoping to pad its NCAA Tournament resume.

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Norman Powell named UCLA’s only All-Pac-12 first team member

Norman Powell (4) goes for a steal during UCLA's 77-63 win over Long Beach State on Nov. 23. Powell finished the regular season leading the Bruins in points (16.3) and steals (60), and was named to the All-Pac-12 first team. (Stephen Carr/Staff)

Norman Powell (4) goes for a steal during UCLA’s 77-63 win over Long Beach State on Nov. 23. Powell finished the regular season leading the Bruins in points (16.3) and steals (60), and was named to the All-Pac-12 first team. (Stephen Carr/Staff)

Norman Powell blossomed into UCLA’s go-to option in his final season as a Bruin, and was rewarded with a spot on the All-Pac-12 first team. The 6-foot-4 guard led his team in scoring, steals and free throw attempts, and ranked third in rebounds and assists.

Powell was also a conference all-defensive honorable mention for the second year in a row. UCLA had landed multiple players on the All-Pac-12 first team in three of the last four seasons.

Freshman Kevon Looney, who averaged 12.3 points and 9.5 rebounds, didn’t make the 10-member first team but earned a second-team nod. Sophomore point guard Bryce Alford was an All-Pac-12 honorable mention, rounding out a relatively unsurprising showing for the Bruins in the postseason awards.

The big shocker came in Joseph Young winning Pac-12 Player of the Year, becoming the first Oregon player to do so since Luke Ridnour in 2003. Young led the conference with 19.8 points per game, but isn’t as well-rounded a player as Arizona’s T.J. McConnell or Utah’s Delon Wright — two players who were the presumptive frontrunners for the league’s top individual honor.

It certainly helped Young’s case that Oregon won nine of its last 10 games to clinch the No. 2 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament. Head coach Dana Altman was named Pac-12 Coach of the Year for the second time in three seasons.

See the full list of All-Pac-12 honors below: Continue reading

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