UCLA came here hoping to earn an NCAA tournament bid, but as the Bruins enter the Pac-12 Conference tournament the odds are not in their favor.
Most NCAA tournament projections have UCLA on the wrong side of the bubble. So what, short of winning the conference tournament and an automatic bid, can the Bruins do to convince the selection committee they are worthy?
"I've heard Coach [Steve Alford] talk about it," senior guard Norman Powell said. "One, two wins would probably lock up a spot in the NCAA tournament, but our main focus is not just to get one or two wins, it's to win the whole thing."
Don MacLean, a former UCLA star who is now a Pac-12 Networks analyst, put it this way: "They'll be very uncomfortable on Sunday until their names are called."
The Bruins will play USC in a quarterfinal game Thursday. UCLA easily defeated USC twice during the regular season, and a win could set up a rematch against top-seeded Arizona, which will play California in its quarterfinal. UCLA lost on the road against the Wildcats in February but has beaten Arizona in the Pac-12 tournament two seasons in a row.
UCLA has played the toughest schedule in the Pac-12 but has just one win against the Ratings Percentage Index top 25 — against Utah, which is 17th in the RPI rankings. Arizona is No. 7.
Sophomore point guard Bryce Alford said UCLA is better than its resume.
"I think we know what we're capable of, and I don't know if the nation knows that yet," he said. "We haven't really done all that much to show what we're capable of, but we know it as a team, and we've seen glimpses of it."
If UCLA can win two games and advance to the conference championship game, win or lose their Selection Sunday could be a lot less stressful.
If not? The Bruins don't want to think about that.
"We just know we got to win," freshman forward Kevon Looney said.