UCLA men's basketball earns a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament
March 16, 2023
The UCLA men's basketball team, despite a tough loss in the Pac-12 Tournament final, has earned a No. 2 seed in the West Region of the 68-team NCAA Men's basketball tournament. The Bruins, winners of eleven national championships, are in pursuit of a 12th title. No school in the country has won more NCAA men's basketball championships than the storied Bruin basketball program.
The Bruins won the regular season title in the Pac-12, but injuries to defensive stars Jaylen Clark and Adem Bona left them short-handed against the Arizona Wildcats in the Pac-12 Tournament Conference Championship. Even with the injuries to Clark and Bona, the Bruins led by as much as nine points in the second half of the conference championship game in Las Vegas against Arizona.
The Wildcats cut the lead to one point with under 30 seconds. An offensive rebound gave Arizona a second chance at the lead and guard Courtney Ramey drained a three-point shot to give Arizona a 60-58 lead with 18 seconds remaining in the game. After both teams missed one of two from the free throw line, Bruin freshman guard Dylan Andrews missed a wide-open three pointer at the buzzer, giving the Wildcats a 61-59 victory.
Both the Bruins and the Wildcats are No. 2 seeds in the NCAA Tournament, with the Bruins getting into the more favorable West Region in Sacramento and Las Vegas. The Bruins earned the West region berth by winning the Pac-12 regular season title. Arizona was placed in the South Region in Louisville, Kentucky.
Clark is out for the rest of the NCAA Tournament with a lower leg injury. Bona has a left shoulder injury and hopefully will be able to return for the Bruins first round game against the University of North Carolina-Asheville on Thursday at 7:05 p.m. The Bruins will still have forward Jaime Jaquez Jr., the Pac-12 Player of the Year, three-time first team All-Pac-12-point guard Tyger Campbell, and freshman star Amari Bailey leading the way.
UCLA was not the only men's basketball team from Southern California to earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament. The USC Trojans are headed to the East Region to take on the Michigan State Spartans. USC is a No. 10 seed and Michigan State is a No. 7 seed. The Trojans are led by their guards Boogie Ellis and Drew Peterson, both first team All-Pac-12 players.
The UC-Santa Barbara Gauchos won the Big West Conference Championship, earning them a berth in the South Region, where they will play the Baylor Bears. The Gauchos beat Cal State-Fullerton 72-62 in the championship game at Dollar Loan Center in Henderson, Nevada. UCSB is led by guard Ajay Mitchell, the Big West Player of the Year.
The San Diego State University Aztecs won the Mountain West Conference Championship Tournament in Las Vegas, defeating the Utah State Aggies, 62-57. The Aztecs also won the regular season championship. The Aztec are led by first team All-MWC guard Matt Bradley and forward Nathan Mensah, the MWC Defensive Player of the Year.
SDSU is the No. 5 seed in the South Region and will take on the No. 12 seed College of Charleston Cougars in a first round matchup in Orlando, Florida. The Cougars are 31-3 on the season. The Aztecs are a strong defensive team and could be a surprise in the tournament. SDSU is expected to get an invite to the Pac-12 conference in the very near future.
College basketball in Southern California has experienced a resurgence over the past few years, led by UCLA. There are 14 Division I basketball programs in Southern California, from Santa Barbara to San Diego and all of them are competitive. The Bruins had three sellouts in their final nine home games and averaged over 10,774 fans per game in their 10 conference home games. The fan enthusiasm has helped the team to 25 consecutive home wins, the longest current home winning streak in the nation.
The Bruins will meet up with UNC Asheville in Sacramento at the Golden 1 Center on Thursday Night, March 16th. The Bruins have a 29-5 won-loss record for the season, while UNC Asheville, the Big South Conference champions, are 27-7 for the season. The game is scheduled to start at 7:05 PM on Tru TV. The winner of this matchup will meet the winner of the Northwestern vs Boise State game. That game will be played on Sunday, March 18th in Sacramento.