Why UCLA Will Have a Watchful Eye on USC-ASU Tilt

So now that the Sunday games have wrapped up in their prosective ends of the NCAA basketball realm, we can unapologetically kick back and get all too engulfed in our tournament brackets–or perhaps you’ve been obsessing over them for the past few weeks, whatever fits your fancy.

The Pac-12 matchups, which kick off on Wednesday, really look like four middle-of-the-season regular season tilts, nothing too crazy. But the battle between USC and ASU could be quite interesting, particularly with the winner moving on to face UCLA the following day. And even with the help of eight days off after clinching the No.4 seed in the tourney, you can bet they won’t just be hitting the Las Vegas strip without a care about who they have to face in the quarterfinals.

The Bruins will have a very close eye on Wednesday’s game as well.

Another opportunity to beat the Trojans would be fine, as UCLA did just that this past week, drowning out the crosstown rival 85-74. But of course, a SoCal rematch would depend on USC beating Arizona State, who rallied late to win 64-59 over the Trojans down in Tempe on Feburary 22.

The late rally is something in the Sun Devils seem to have in their repertoire, as they did the same thing to UCLA on February 18 handing the Bruins a stingy 68-66 loss.

A team with a tendency to push back later in a game could wear on UCLA, who benefits from an having an early lead but can give the opponent a bit of breathing room in the second half. Granted matching USC for 39 points in the second portion of last week’s Battle of LA didn’t make much of a difference since the Trojans couldn’t catch up. The question is whether or not the Bruins could hold off the Sun Devils that same way. Not to mention without having the cushion of the home court advantage: They went undefeated at home this season, including a three-game run to end regular season play all taking place at Pauley Pavilion.

If the Bruins are going to be focused on the matchup between USC and ASU, you should be too. Tip off is scheduled for 2:30pm Pacific time.

*Section Photo credit to Stephen Dunn, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Stephen R. Sylvanie, USA Today Sports