After back-to-back home losses to Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee State, the UCLA Bruins head to the Maui Invitational with a sense of urgency. And the bracket doesn’t exactly do the Bruins any favors. Here’s why: UCLA opens with host Chaminade. It’s a lose-only proposition. Besides an 0-3 start, a loss would push the Bruins into the Consolation Bracket – meaning UCLA would likely be grouped with Georgetown, Tennessee, and the loser of the Michigan-Memphis game. Of that group, only Michigan or Memphis is an NCAA-caliber opponent at this juncture.
The good news for UCLA? Opportunity awaits. A victory over Chaminade would vault the Bruins into a potential semifinal matchup with Kansas. It would also assure the Bruins of playing two quality opponents – Michigan, Memphis, and Duke are grouped in the upper half of the bracket. UCLA’s remaining non-conference schedule is pretty light; a game with Texas is the highlight. The Bruins need to make a splash in Maui or risk a long uphill climb toward Selection Sunday.
A quick glance into Maui:
Favorite: Duke. While putting some new pieces together, the Blue Devils arrive in Maui with solid wins over Belmont, Michigan State, and Davidson. That’s a pretty decent opening slate. An opening-round victory over Tennessee would match the Blue Devils against either Michigan or Memphis. The title game would be against Kansas, Georgetown, or UCLA. Duke would be favored in all of those matchups. Thus, they are the team to beat. Read more…