Is Friday’s Pac-12 semi-final matchup between UCLA and Arizona that surprising? No, not really. Both programs showed prowess over their regular season campaigns that demonstrated how deep they could potentially go into tournament play.
However, we didn’t anticipate that the conference leading Wildcats would have to put up such a battle. It makes Friday’s matchup with the Bruins that much more interesting.
Sure, UCLA jumped on rival USC right at tipoff and never took their foot off the gas for an impressive 96-70 rout in the Battle of Los Angeles reprise. Arizona, on the other end, didn’t single-handedly swat down Cal like it was heavily predicted, and had trouble figuring out the Bears out in the first half.
Was it too many days of rest? I mean, it wasn’t as if AZ hadn’t faced the boys from Berkeley before. And now, after pulling out the win, do they have the right amount of fuel to do battle again on Friday, this time against the stingy SoCal clan?
Get this look at Arizona and UCLA duking it out in the semis was already going to be interesting, if their meeting during regular season play was any type of a preview. While the Wildcats managed to pull out the 57-47 victory, turnover troubles almost did them in–an issue AZ faced in more than one game over the 2014-15 season. Key to their success? Not letting the mistakes end up their basket, particularly against the team that managed the 17th most rebounds per game in the league.
Plus, UCLA will be looking to prove themselves since the February 18 loss down in Tuscon was the last loss that the Bruins sustained. They subsequently went on to win four straight, including Thursday’s quarterfinal smackdown on the Trojans. Their key to a win? Probably remembering that they aren’t playing lowly USC anymore.