WESTWOOD—Come March, last night’s 88-66 rout of Washington won’t put the Bruins at the heart of anyone’s tournament bracket.
And yet, the victory permits the faintest trace of a silver lining in a season far below below the standards of one of college basketball’s most storied programs.
Since a nightmarish December, UCLA has won the match ups they should be winning. With two games remaining on their regular season schedule, the Bruins face two more such match ups, as Washington State and USC will visit Westwood as underdogs to a talented, but wildly inconsistent UCLA team.
Wins against the Trojans and Cougars would likely put head coach Steve Alford and company in a position to secure a top-four seed in the upcoming PAC-12 tournament, a position that would earn them a coveted first-round bye.
Guard Norman Powell, who scored 24-points in the winning effort against the Huskies, emphasized that the team must maintain focus their on-court focus and avoid any March Madness speculation.
“We control our own destiny,” said Powell. “If we start putting the pressure on us and start thinking about it too much, things will fall apart. We’re not going to be too worried about what could happen. We’re going to take care of our business.”
If UCLA is to secure a tournament appearance, they will have to pull-off at least one victory against a truly quality opponent, a feat that has escaped them in 2014-15. The closest thing to a signature victory the Bruins have enjoyed were home wins over Utah and Oregon, teams that embarrassed UCLA earlier in the year.
If the end of the regular season and the conference tournament fail to yield these results, grumblings of yet another coaching change may become chants, as school officials and fans grow increasingly restless about the direction of a team that once took NCAA tournament appearances for granted.