UCLA

Bruins get the last laugh

UCLA's NCAA selection was called a joke, but Bruins are now in final 32

Before the NCAA tournament even started, UCLA was one of the biggest stories. After UCLA's selection, on the CBS broadcast, Doug Gottlieb immediately called the selection "a joke."

"It makes no sense," Gottlieb said.

For much of the week, UCLA insisted it wasn't listening to the criticism, but after its 60-59 victory over Southern Methodist on Thursday, several players said it was satisfying to show they belonged.

"Our guys obviously had a chip on their shoulder to win this one because we felt we earned this bid," UCLA Coach Steve Alford said.

They proved themselves just in time to respond to the newest criticism.

"It's always going to be something. They're going to say it wasn't a goaltend or something," junior forward Tony Parker said, referring to the late call that gave UCLA the decisive points.

There is also the matter of the Bruins' opponent in the third round, 14th-seeded Alabama Birmingham. For the second season in a row, the Bruins have drawn an easy path to the regional semifinals.

Last season, UCLA defeated 13th-seeded Tulsa and then drew Stephen F. Austin, the No. 12 seed, in the third round.

In with a blaze

UAB (20-15) hadn't expected to even be here. The Blazers finished fourth in Conference USA. They thought their season was over.

"I'm pretty sure about this: Four or five guys on our team didn't realize a month ago that the Conference USA tournament champions got an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament," Coach Jerod Haase said. "I bet a third of our team had never watched the selection show."

Now they know. UAB won the conference tournament and the automatic bid. It didn't hurt that the tournament was held in Birmingham.

Now, the Blazers have scored the first major upset of the tournament. They toppled No. 3 seed Iowa State, by the same score as UCLA: 60-59.

UAB brutalized the Cyclones on the glass. The Blazers won the rebounding battle by 15 and collected 19 offensive rebounds. Should the Bruins be concerned?

UCLA had no problem with Alabama Birmingham earlier this season. At the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas in December. UCLA led for nearly the entire game and the Blazers never threatened in the 88-76 UCLA win.

Goaltending?

A call of basket interference might have been less controversial than the goaltending call. By rule, the ball must have "the possibility, while in flight, of entering the basket" for a goaltending call.

Basket interference, on the other hand, occurs when the defender "touches the ball while any part of it is within the cylinder that has the ring as its lower base."

In either case, the points are awarded to the shooter.

Masked man

Freshman forward Kevon Looney said he felt "much more comfortable" wearing a new mask against SMU. His shot, he said, was "terrible," but not due to the mask. He made three of eight shots.

zach.helfand@latimes.com

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
68°