There is considerable conversation about UCLA being bypassed for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and having to settle for a No. 2.
But I think the important matter is the Bruins were allowed to stay in the West and won’t have to go elsewhere early in the tournament.
And if UCLA and top-seeded Kansas do make it to the Regional final, what difference will the seedings make?
The committee’s decision, however, is hard to defend. UCLA won everything that mattered until it clinched the Pac-10 championship. At that point it had a 26-3 record and had spent several weeks ranked No. 1 in the polls.
To be severely punished for losing two games with little meaning doesn’t seem right. The loss at Washington came two days after UCLA had clinched the prize it had sought all season. The first round loss to California in the conference tournament was a major upset, all right, but if the Bruins were going to be flat this was a good time for it. The team lacked the incentive of opponents who were desperate and knew it had already earned a high NCAA seed.
Ben Howland is an intense coach who doesn’t like to lose any game. But some prominent coaches, most notable Lute Olson and Roy Williams, have openly questioned the wisdom of having a conference tournament.
“We beat each other up for months and then do it again for three days,” said Williams. “Yes, I have questioned that.”
Conference tournaments create a lot of interest and bring in a lot of money, though, so they’re here to stay. The Pac-10 has announced the tournament will remain at Staples Center the next five years.
While UCLA fans wonder about the Bruins’ seed, USC fans are happy with a No. 5 seed in Tim Floyd’s second season as coach.
USC hadn’t been invited in five years but Floyd has coached 40 wins in two seasons, including a 23-11 record this season.
The Trojans were blitzed by Oregon, 81-57, in the conference tournament championship game but got there by defeating Stanford and Washington State.
Long Beach State, the Big West champion, was invited too.
As for UCLA, it has had a lapse and it would be surprising if the Bruins aren’t refreshed and ready to go at the most important time of the season. Arron Afflalo, the Pac-10 Player of the Year, should be ready to lead the Bruins into battle.
And then there will be next season, when UCLA gets the heralded Kevin Love and USC adds A.J. Mayo.
As a frame of reference, the 6-foot-9 Love has many of the same skills as Bill Walton and the 6-5 Mayo is spectacular in the manner of Kobe Bryant.