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.”
The Pac-12 has adopted “sweeping reforms” geared toward improving the welfare of its athletes, the conference announced Monday.
The biggest news is that the league will now guarantee four-year scholarships for all athletes regardless of sport effective in 2015-16 — a change that will dramatically affect how much room for error teams have in each recruiting class. While many players often have their scholarships renewed year to year as a mere formality, a blanket rule covering everyone on the roster makes it trickier for coaches to push out athletes for one reason or another.
According to a CBS Sports report last month, UCLA only gave out three guaranteed multi-year scholarships across all sports in 2013-14.
After reviewing a clip of Eddie Vanderdoes’ punch against Oregon last Saturday, the Pac-12 has decided not to hand out additional punishment to UCLA’s sophomore defensive lineman.
Vanderdoes received a personal foul penalty during the second quarter of the Bruins’ 42-30 loss for punching left tackle Jake Fisher. The flag gave the Ducks 15 yards and an automatic first down on what what would have been third-and-3 at the UCLA 47-yard line. Oregon scored a touchdown five plays later on Marcus Mariota’s 21-yard screen pass to Thomas Tyner, taking a 15-3 lead.
“I made a stupid decision,” Vanderdoes said. “I regret it. That’s not me. I’ve never done that before to a player in a game.” Continue reading →
Jim Mora stands on the field before UCLA’s eventual 30-28 loss to Utah at the Rose Bowl on Oct. 4, 2014. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)
Poised to move up in the rankings after a slew upsets on Saturday, UCLA instead dropped to No. 18 in the Associated Press poll.
The Bruins lost 30-28 to Utah on Saturday night, a game in which the Utes sacked Brett Hundley 10 times and held off a late comeback attempt. Utah debuted in the rankings at No. 24.
Arizona is now the only undefeated Pac-12 team left, a turn of events that would have stunned any college football pundit before the season started. The Wildcats upset No. 2 Oregon on Thursday, dropping the Ducks to 12th.
Stanford fell 11 spots to No. 25 after losing their second game of the season, a 17-14 decision at Notre Dame. The Cardinal also lost to USC last month, which in turn fell out of the polls after losing to Arizona State on a Hail Mary.
The Sun Devils — blown out by UCLA, 62-27, a week ago — are now ranked 20th.
Nearly four months ago, UCLA was listed as an early favorite almost through its entire 2014 schedule. The exception? Mighty Oregon, just a year removed from four straight BCS bowls, and an early three-point favorite.
My, how things have changed.
UCLA stumbled out of the gate, collecting three uneven wins before stomping on then-No. 15 Arizona State last Thursday. The Bruins still have question marks, but they’re on the upswing, and back in the hearts and minds of at least a few national pundits. One ESPN analyst has them in the San Francisco Bowl, but another picked the Fiesta Bowl. CBS Sports has slotted UCLA back into the Sugar Bowl, as the No. 4 seed in a national semifinal against Alabama.
The No. 2 Ducks, meanwhile, might have cost themselves national title hopes with their 31-24 loss at home last night to Arizona — the most surprising undefeated team left in the country. (Earlier this week, Yahoo! Sports’ Pat Forde wrote this of the Wildcats: “Chances of being unbeaten by Halloween: zero.”) Continue reading →