Three months ago, after the UCLA basketball team had blown through Miami like a hurricane, Miami Coach Bill Foster said the Bruins reminded him of UCLA's 1979-80 team, the school's last to reach the Final Four.
Foster may have been onto something because, after losing twice in Arizona last week, UCLA looks like a good bet to finish fourth in the Pacific 10 Conference, as it did in 1980 before making its run through the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. tournament.
UCLA, which will play Washington tonight in Pauley Pavilion, is tied for third place with Oregon State, but the schedule seems to favor Oregon State.
That could prove significant because, in all likelihood, the fourth-place finisher will have to play California next month in its first game in the Pac-10 tournament and will also be in the same bracket as second-ranked Arizona.
Arizona, which has won its last 11 conference games by an average of 23 points, is 14-1 in the Pac-10 and has all but wrapped up its second straight conference championship and third in four years.
Stanford is 12-3, and UCLA and Oregon State are each 10-4.
UCLA, after playing Washington State Sunday in Pauley Pavilion, will wind up its regular-season schedule next week with games at Cal Thursday night and at home March 4 against Arizona.
Cal has lost only to Arizona and Oregon State in 14 home games this season and Arizona beat UCLA last week at Tucson, 102-64.
Oregon State, meanwhile, will be home this weekend to play California and Stanford and will play Oregon (8-16) in a home-and-home series next week.
"We'd like to be a little bit better, but we're not," said UCLA Coach Jim Harrick, whose team is 16-7 overall. "So, we'll go from here."
Where are the Bruins headed?
"I think if we can win 19 or 20 (games), including the (Pac-10) tournament, I think we have a chance to get into the (NCAA) tournament," Harrick said.
Only a week ago, UCLA was in position to win the conference title. And a berth in the NCAA tournament seemed all but assured after a 77-75 victory over Louisville.
But then came a 93-86 loss at Arizona State, in which the Bruins squandered a nine-point second-half lead against a .500 team, and the blowout at Arizona.
Harrick, though, said he is not discouraged.
"We're still a pretty decent team and a team that should be in the (NCAA) tournament--if we don't completely quit," he said. "We've just got to come back and get focused on what we need to do.
"Hopefully, we can get two this week and (win) three out of four. Maybe we can get four out of four."
Getting the first would seem to be the easiest.
UCLA beat Washington last month at Seattle, 93-74, out-rebounding the Huskies, 39-21, and getting superb guard play from Pooh Richardson and Darrick Martin. Richardson had 18 points and 10 assists, and Martin made nine of 10 shots and scored 22 points.
Forward Trevor Wilson contributed 17 points and 15 rebounds.
Harrick, though, calls Washington a mystery team. Two weeks ago at Stanford, the Huskies took the Cardinal into overtime before losing, 82-74. Then last week at home, the Huskies lost to Oregon State, 106-66.
The Huskies are 10-14 overall and 6-9 in the Pac-10.
"You never know which Washington team is going to show up," Harrick said. "But they do have a lot of ability. They're dangerous."
UCLA is 10-1 in Pauley Pavilion this season. . . . Guard Eldridge Recasner, who leads Washington with a 17.9 scoring average, was limited to 12 points last month in a 93-74 loss to UCLA. . . . UCLA, which plays Washington State Sunday, has never lost to the Cougars at Los Angeles, winning 31 consecutive games. . . . Washington is 2-22 in Pauley Pavilion. . . . The UCLA women's team will play Washington State tonight at 5:15.
UCLA forward Don MacLean, who has scored 431 points in 23 games, needs 86 points to surpass Stanford's Todd Lichti and become the Pacific 10 Conference's all-time freshman scoring leader. Lichti scored 516 points in 30 games in the 1985-86 season. Arizona's Sean Elliott, who last week passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the former Lew Alcindor, to become the conference's all-time scoring leader, scored 499 points in 32 games as a freshman in the 1985-86 season.
Coach Jim Harrick, on UCLA's 102-64 loss to Arizona, which was the worst loss in Bruin history: "It's not a very good feeling to sit there and watch your team get hammered. That's the worst fear of any coach--that your team will come out and get beat like that." . . . Despite the score, though, Harrick said of the Wildcats: "I think we've got a fair chance to beat them here. We've shown that we could possibly do that."
In 1980, UCLA was 17-9 in the regular season, finished behind Oregon State, Arizona State and Washington State in the Pac-10 and was the last team picked for the 48-team NCAA tournament. The Bruins, coached by Larry Brown, then beat Old Dominion, DePaul, Ohio State, Clemson and Purdue before losing in the championship game to Louisville, 59-54.