The West is accustomed to having outstanding college basketball teams--primarily in the Pacific 10, and more specifically in Westwood, the home of the UCLA Bruins. Alas, the Bruins are having a dismal year, as is USC. But the West still is doing quite well on the national hoop scene.
The Arizona Wildcats are No. 1 in the nation with an 18-1 record after defeating a stubborn Bruin bunch on Sunday, and are a cinch to win the conference and to lead Pac 10 teams--if there are any others--into the national collegiate tournament.
The University of Nevada-Las Vegas Rebels are a national power again, knocking off previously undefeated Temple at Leas Vegas on Sunday. The UNLV record now is 17-1. Temple's loss leaves Brigham Young University as the nation's only undefeated team, at 14-0.
BYU now leads the Western Athletic Conference, which also includes nationally ranked Texas-El Paso (16-3) and strong teams from New Mexico and Wyoming. The Cougars ended New Mexico's 13-game winning streak on the Lobos' home court over the weekend. The WAC, which includes San Diego State, has emerged this year as the West's most potent basketball conference.
This year's National Collegiate Athletic Assn. tournament could be one of the most exciting ever, with strong entries from all sections of the nation. It's about time for the West to at least make the finals. The last Western team to make the championship game was UCLA in 1980, and the last Western champion was UCLA in 1975. Other than UCLA, the last Western teams to win the championship game or to play in it were Texas-El Paso in 1966 and the University of California in 1960.