Bracket Bits: UCLA faces uphill climb for NCAA bid
Thus far, UCLA has lost to the four NCAA-level opponents on its schedule – all by double digits. And the upcoming schedule features a stretch of six road games in eight outings. While the Bruins will play their first true road game tomorrow (Dec. 28 at Alabama), they are 1-3 in neutral-court games away from Pauley Pavilion, having beaten only Alabama-Birmingham. Between now and January 24, UCLA faces Alabama, Colorado, Utah, USC, Oregon State, and Oregon on the road, along with Stanford and California at home. It’s not a brutal gauntlet of opponents, but it could very well be the most important four weeks of the season.
Which brings us back to the Alabama game. The Crimson Tide are in a similar position to the Bruins. They’ve missed against the top three opponents on their schedule, although a one-point loss at Wichita State is notable. More importantly for the Bruins, this game represents the final chance to score a meaningful non-conference victory. History suggests such results matter during the NCAA selection process.
What else could work against the Bruins? UCLA faces Arizona and Washington just once during the Pac-12 regular season. They do get Utah twice, which helps, but the league schedule still limits some of the Bruins’ opportunities. We anticipated some growing pains in Westwood, but the growing process is going to have to speed up soon. Otherwise, an NCAA-bid may remain at the top of a hill the Bruins can’t climb.