Before practice Monday, UCLA Coach Steve Alford met with his players to discuss scenarios for the rest of the season. According to senior guard Norman Powell, the coach talked about how the Bruins' RPI had improved. And he talked about where they could sit by the end of the year.
The message, Powell said, was that they controlled their own destiny.
This season has been a fitful one for the Bruins, but with seven games to go in the regular season they are still in the NCAA tournament mix.
Joe Lunardi, ESPN's NCAA tournament expert, projects UCLA as the second team out of the 68-team tournament field, one spot behind St. John's. He projects Illinois and Miami as the last teams in.
"We know that these games are crucial," Powell said.
Sophomore point guard Bryce Alford said the team knows where it sits in the standings, and they know they have time to make a run.
"This is playoff basketball for us," he said.
UCLA VS. OREGON STATE
When: 7 p.m. PST, Wednesday.
Where: Pauley Pavilion.
On the air: TV: Pac-12 Networks; Radio: 570.
Records: UCLA 14-10, 6-5 in the Pac-12; Oregon State 16-7, 7-4.
Update: After splitting a trip against Stanford and California, the Bruins are in sixth place in the conference standings but are just one game out of a four-way tie for third. UCLA will play two of those teams, Oregon State and Oregon, this week. In the last meeting between these teams, the Beavers led UCLA by 17 points, but the Bruins cut the lead to two late in the game. An Oregon State timeout helped stop UCLA's run, and the Beavers recovered to win, 66-55. Oregon State guard Gary Payton II did a little of everything for the Beavers, with 18 points, seven rebounds, six assists, five steals and a block.