LAS VEGAS—UCLA’s NCAA Tournament hopes remain alive following Thursday’s 96-70 drubbing of rival USC.
The Bruins have won four consecutive games, twice beating USC in the span of a week-and-a-half to set up a PAC-12 Tournament semi-final match-up with fifth-ranked Arizona.
A fifth consecutive victory over the nation’s fifth-ranked team would surely push UCLA over the top. However, a loss could very well leave the Bruins on the outside-looking in on college basketball’s annual insanity.
UCLA currently stands at 50th on the National Ratings Percentage Index, putting the team in a very difficult position should they falter against the Wildcats.
The odds are very clearly stacked against UCLA, however, the Bruins have given Arizona past PAC-12 tournament nightmares and very nearly upset the Wildcats on their home court in February.
If sophomore guard Issac Hamilton can perform anywhere close to the level at which he performed Thursday night, scoring a career-high 36-points against the Trojans in a surreal shooting performance, the underdog Bruins might be able to keep it close long enough to pull-off the upset in the game’s final minutes.
“When a guy is playing like that, you’re just trying to get it to him as many times as you can,” guard Bryce Alford said. “Because he had that feeling where the basket is like an ocean.”
Against a considerably stronger Arizona team, UCLA fans must hope that ocean doesn’t evaporate along with their tournament dreams.
The game, broadcasting on the Pac-12 Network, tips-off at 6 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.