No matter what happens in the Sweet 16, UCLA is in for a juicy matchup.
If UCLA faces Gonzaga, it will be a rematch of a 2006 Sweet 16 game. That game ended in an emotional Adam Morrison and a UCLA team headed to the national title game.
If UCLA faces Iowa, the former employer of coach Steve Alford. The separation wasn’t completely amicable.
Yet neither of these games should even happen.
Kudos to UCLA for taking advantage of the postseason life preserver the selection committee handed the Bruins. UCLA is heading to the Sweet 16 for the second time under Alford in a year when the Bruins probably should have made the NIT.
That said, UCLA’s wins the last two days still doesn’t justify the selection committee’s most controversial pick.
UCLA still made the field with an RPI of 48, lower than first-four-out teams Colorado State, Temple or Old Dominion. UCLA still made the field with no win as good as Temple’s win at Kansas. UCLA still made the field with three sub-100 RPI losses compared to none for Colorado State. UCLA still made the field with lopsided losses to Kentucky, North Carolina, Utah and Oregon.
The decision for UCLA to be in the field was still a blunder even though the Bruins are in the Sweet 16.
The trip to the Sweet 16 has proven that UCLA can beat SMU and UAB. The SMU win was only UCLA’s second over a top-25 KenPom team, and the Bruins needed a controversial goal tend call to do it. And beating No. 122 UAB was no different than beating Washington, Oregon State or San Diego, at least as far as the rankings are concerned.
A handful of NIT teams could beat SMU and UAB or any No. 6 and No. 11 seeds in the field. Kansas State has seven RPI top-100 wins and managed to miss the the NIT because of a losing record.
In other words, it’s possible to be in the Sweet 16 and not deserve to be there at the same time.
"The selection committee thought we were good enough to play in this tournament, and I think we proved it," forward Tony Parker told the media after the win over UAB.
Now, this isn’t to denigrate UCLA’s accomplishment the last three days. Seriously, good for Steve Alford and the depth-challenged Bruins for seizing the moment. We get to see another week of father and son in the NCAA Tournament, and that’s pretty cool. We get more Tony Parker soundbites. We’re going to get an entertaining Sweet 16 game.
These are all good things for college basketball fans.
They just never should have happened.