INDIANA—Often overlooked and disrespected by narrow minded college basketball pundits, the PAC-12 has steamrolled through March Madness, going a perfect 6-0 to open the tournament. Included in this run is double-digit victories by both USC and UCLA, which has both advancing to the round of 32. In a year in which the world has seen many unthinkable firsts; the NCAA Tournament is no exception as the Oregon Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) game was cancelled just hours before tipoff because of VCU’s inability to meet COVID-19 protocols.
Specifically, VCU was not able to put five players on the court. Faced with this harsh reality, the NCAA Committee was forced to make the gut wrenching decision to rule the game a No Contest. Sadly, this marks the first time in the history of March Madness a game has been cancelled. Oregon will play Iowa on Monday.
Now let’s talk Bruins and Trojans basketball! In the matinee game, the No. 6 USC Trojans made a statement in their first round matchup- crushing the No. 11 Drake Bulldogs by a score of 72-56 on Saturday, March 20.
After a close first half in which USC clung to a slim three point lead, their swarming defense kicked into overdrive led by Evan Mosley. His three blocks put the leash on the Bulldogs, only allowing seven field goals for 19 points in the second half. When the Trojans have at least three players score 10 or more points they’re 20-0. That is now 21-0 after three Trojans scored at least 14 points today.
The road to the Final Four doesn’t get any easier for the Trojans. Awaiting them on Monday night is the perennial powerhouse, No. 3 Kansas Jayhawks on Monday.
For loyal readers of Canyon News-we clearly realize the UCLA Bruins are the only team on your radar; that’s why we saved the best for last. It was like deja vu all over again for UCLA as J-3 led the way for the resurgent Bruins. The trio of Jules Bernard, Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Johnny Juzang once again were pivotal in the victory.
The No. 11 UCLA Bruins knocked off the No. 6 BYU Cougars, 73-62 on Saturday night at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The team was led by Johnny Juzang who poured in 27 points to carry the Bruins.
‘This is what we live for. This is the height of college basketball,” Juzang said, ”and playing for the Bruins – I’m from Los Angeles. Playing with a lot of guys I’ve known, we’re all brothers here. So putting on this jersey with my brothers, coming out, playing for the home team – I’m just trying to make everybody on the team proud.”
Jules Bernard added 16 points in the upset. Also key was Jaime Jaquez, his 13 points were key as BYU jumped out in the second half, cutting the Bruins lead to four. Jaquez drove past the Cougars defense for an epic slam dunk, effectively ending BYU’s comeback.
UCLA will now meet another Cinderella story on Monday night. Minutes after the Bruins victory, No. 14 Abilene Christian upset the No. 3 Texas Longhorns with a 53-52 victory.
”I owe (assistant coach) Darren Savino lunch. He’s scouting Abilene Christian and he told me they would win,” said UCLA coach Mick Cronin. ”Abilene Christian is really, really good. That’s all I can say.”
It will be UCLA’s third game in five nights. With both Southland programs succeeding in the tournament- the fans are feeling March Gladness!