Staff share their March Madness picks
March Madness. This college basketball regular season has had no shortage of surprises. There has been six different number one ranked teams this year. Competition throughout the country has been balanced, and no team can automatically be looked at and indisputably say they’re the best in the country. But this is it. The NCAA Tournament. Where game winning shots and shocking upsets are seen almost daily. This is when the madness truly begins. Players work so hard to have a chance for this moment. When back sides get tired and palms get sweaty, which team is going to gut it out and rightfully claim the title of “best in the country?”
The UCLA Bruins are going to win this tournament. Excluding the first two weeks of the season, UCLA has spent all year ranked higher than No.15 and most of their season ranked in the top five. In a year where no team has asserted utter dominance over everyone else, UCLA has shown just as much consistency as any other team.
UCLA finished their season 28-3 overall and 15-3 within the Pac-12 conference. The Bruins are playing great basketball at the perfect moment, currently riding a nine-game win streak in to the tournament.
My main reasoning for picking the Bruins is because of the resiliency this team has shown. Back in early February, UCLA ran into an Oregon Ducks team that had won 19 of their last 20 match-ups, with one of those wins coming against the Bruins themselves. Oregon jumped out to a 19-point lead in the first half. UCLA kept fighting. UCLA kept passing the ball from good looks at the basket, to great looks. With just over four minutes to go in the game, senior guard Bryce Alford drove to the basket and found sophomore guard Aaron Holiday waiting at the arc. Holiday hit the 3-point shot and UCLA had their first lead of the game. UCLA took the 82-79 victory against the Ducks and the Bruins went on to win their remaining six games.
This team is a collective unit. UCLA has six players averaging above 10 points per game, led by Alford who’s averaging 16.5 points per game on 47 percent shooting and shooting 45 percent from the three-point line. UCLA is first in the country in scoring at 91.3 points per game and they also are the most pass-happy team, ranking first in the country, averaging 21.7 assists per game as a team.
To go along with the collectiveness and comradery of this team, UCLA also has a star in Lonzo Ball. Ball is playing at an insane level for a freshman. He’s averaging nearly 15 points per game on 56 percent shooting. Ball is snatching up 6.2 rebounds per game while also finding teammates by averaging 7.8 assists. Ball is the engine for this team.
In the end, it comes down to the team that makes shots. The team that shows the grit to make the tough layups and contested jump shots on a nightly basis will win this tournament. In my humbled opinion, with Lonzo Ball distributing the basketball to multiple scoring talented teammates and the character this team has shown to win down the stretch, I can’t see the championship trophy being handed to anyone but the Bruins.