Lonzo Ball UCLA

College Hoops on Sling: UCLA Poised to Steal Gonzaga’s 1-Seed Out West

On Saturday, the UCLA Bruins withstood a full-frontal assault from Arizona’s Allonzo Trier to win 77-72. Trier scored a career-high 28 points, to go along with 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal, but it wasn’t enough, as UCLA countered with the most potent and balanced offense in college basketball, even on a day when their shot was off. With the victory over Arizona, the Bruins have now defeated all three teams that have beaten them this season, the other two being #6 Oregon and USC, who still got votes in this week’s poll despite falling to Oregon, UCLA, Arizona, and Arizona State in the span of 16 days.

The Gonzaga Bulldogs, meanwhile, lost to BYU over the weekend, 79-71, bringing to an end their hopes of an undefeated season. The Zags were done in by an atrocious night from beyond the arc, hitting on just 3 of 16, 18.75%, well off their season mark of 37.4%. But a team with dreams of perfection shouldn’t let a team like BYU sniff an upset.

With last week in the rearview, the Bruins are now ranked #3, ahead of Gonzaga at #4. The Bruins have the best offense in the nation, scoring 122.4 points per 100 possessions, ahead of Gonzaga by 2.8; they’re the best collection of shooters, with an effective field goal rate of .606; they’ve dished more dimes than any team in the land; and they’re the only team with six guys scoring in double figures, and feature one of the best threesome in the land: Lonzo Ball, TJ Leaf and Bryce Alford.

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It was Gonzaga’s final regular season game of the season, leaving them with just the conference tournament between now and Selection Sunday. As the overwhelming favorites to win, the Zags can’t do anything to help their claim to the 1 seed in the West in the tournament, they can only weaken it. The Bruins, meanwhile, have a pair of easy games against Washington and Washington State, before heading to the Pac-12 tourney, where two wins over Arizona/Oregon/Cal/USC should be enough to prove they are the rightful owners of the 1-seed.

Gonzaga is clearly a good team, but they play in a weak conference, don’t have a single player as good as the Bruins’ second- and maybe third-best player, and it’s been nearly three months since they’ve played a team ranked higher than #20. As often happens, the way the schedule broke, they kinda backed into being the #1 seed, not because they proved anything with a big win, but because every other #1 stumbled. Duke fell early, then Kentucky tripped up, ‘Nova had the hot hand for a few weeks, Baylor kept the seat warm for a week before giving way to ‘Nova… eventually, they had no choice but to give it to Gonzaga, who just kept racking up empty wins. The Bruins, on the other hand, have won their last seven in a row, including victories over two top-5 teams. Who would you put your money on?

Monday

#5 North Carolina (25-5) vs #23 Virginia (19-9)
7pm ET on ESPN

#10 West Virginia (23-6) vs #11 Baylor (23-6)
7pm ET on ESPNU

Oklahoma (10-18) vs #1 Kansas (26-3)
9pm ET on ESPN

#25 Miami (20-8) vs Virginia Tech (20-8)
9pm ET on ESPN

Tuesday

#15 Florida State (23-6) vs #17 Duke (22-7)
7pm ET on ESPN

Indiana (16-13) vs #16 Purdue (23-6)
7pm ET on ESPN2

Vanderbilt (16-13) vs #9 Kentucky (24-5)
9m ET on ESPN

Oklahoma State (20-9) vs #24 Iowa State (19-9)
9pm ET on ESPN2

Wednesday

Arkansas (22-7) vs #12 Florida (23-6)
7pm ET on ESPN2

Washington (9-19) vs #3 UCLA (26-3)
11pm ET on FS1

Thursday

Houston (20-8) #tk vs #18 Cincinnati (25-4)
7pm ET on ESPN2

Iowa (16-13) vs #22 Wisconsin (22-7)
9pm ET on ESPN

Friday

#24 Iowa State (19-9) vs #10 West Virginia (23-6)
7pm ET on ESPN2

Saturday

#12 Florida (23-6) vs Vanderbilt (16-13)
2pm ET on ESPN

Memphis (18-11) vs #14 SMU (25-4)
4pm ET on ESPN2

#11 Baylor (23-6) vs Texas (10-19)
4pm ET on ESPN

#1 Kansas (26-3) vs Oklahoma State (20-9)
6pm ET on ESPN

#6 Oregon (26-4) vs Oregon State (5-25)
6pm ET on ESPN2

#17 Duke (22-7) vs #5 North Carolina (25-5)
8:15pm ET on ESPN

Washington State (13-15) vs #3 UCLA (26-3)
9:30pm ET on ESPNU

*Watch college hoops on ESPN and ESPN2 by subscribing to Sling Orange, on ESPNU subscribing to Sling Orange + Sports Extra, and on FS1 subscribing to Sling Blue All stats courtesy ESPN and College Basketball Reference.

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