UCLA Bruins (33-3) vs. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (29-6)
When: 9:40 p.m. ET
1. Worst Case Scenario already happened. When three of your top five players each have the worst offensive game of their UCLA career on the same night, and you still pull off the W, it's a pretty damn good sign. Against Texas A&M, Josh Shipp was scoreless for the first time since 2004, Luc Richard M'bah a Moute had eight turnovers and blew countless layups, and Russell Westbrook was out of control playing at 800 miles per hour. Still, Kevin Love and Darren Collison held it down and trademark Howlandesque lockdown defense over the last 10 minutes won the game. There's no way UCLA can play worse than that. All you Alfred Aboya groupies better start making San Antonio travel plans today.
2. Wild Accusations! Yeah, so over the past couple weeks, some whiny
people have claimed that UCLA has received favorable calls in the waning seconds of close games. These expert analysts accurately point out that the referees have been paid off by UCLA, and that they are favorable to the Bruins because John Wooden is recovering from an unfortunate fall, and a UCLA championship would be a feel-good story. While most UCLA fans have provided thoughtful rebuttals to these accusations, I'll just go ahead and admit that yes, we paid the referees off. That's really the only legitimate explanation. Expect calls to go our way throughout the remainder of the tournament. Sorry. Maybe your favorite team should have thought of that first.
3. No Joak. As I now live in Gainesville, let me be the first to congratulate the Florida Gators in making their third straight final four appearance. What a feat! Here in Titletown, USA, the atmosphere is electric! The weather is heating up, pool parties are in full swing, and scantily clad UF co-eds are expecting nothing less than back to back to back National Basketball Championships! Fortunately for UCLA fans, the Gators are not
on our side of the bracket
in our tournament, so we will avoid the Billy D kryptonite that has destroyed us over the past two years. You can't spell NIT without Nick Calathes! — Trevor Gribble
WESTERN KENTUCKY HILLTOPPERS
1. Soapbox Moment. We've beaten Drake and San Diego to get to this point. Sounds like we're participating in The Waffle House Invitational over Christmas, rather than the NCAA tournament. I did find it odd that no one gave us a chance against Drake. And then I figured out why...we didn't participate in the ESPN Bracket Buster. You see, this is the only point of reference for the talking heads regarding mid-majors. Yet, the best mid-majors do not participate (West Coast Conference and Atlantic-10). WKU elected not to play along after two years ago drawing a home game against Northern Arizona. The Lumberjacks came to Kentucky on a February Saturday for an afternoon tilt, after playing a league (Big Sky) game on Thursday Night. Needless to say, there are no direct flights from Flagstaff to Bowling Green, KY. Well, we returned the game this season and it proved to be our worst loss of the season. What does all this mean for us against UCLA? Absolutely nothing, but hopefully it proves that the Bracketbuster is a sham event that does more harm than good for mid-majors.
2. Ellis Island, Kentucky. You might think that the WKU roster would be full of slow kids who need four picks to get a shot off. But you would be so wrong! We are doing our best to diversify the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Our backup point guard is named Orlando Mendez-Valdez. We have two players hailing from Africa (Desiree Gabou - Ivory Coast, Boris Siakam -Cameroon) and one from Asia (Japeth Aguilar - Philippines). Japeth was the only Filipino-born player in the NCAA this season. At WKU? Who'da thunk it?
3. Random Facts. Courtney Lee needs 16 points to become the all-time leading scorer in WKU history. Coach Darrin Horn and assistant Cypheus Bunton were a part of the last WKU team to reach the Sweet 16, in 1993. Another assistant, Scott Cherry, won a title as a player at North Carolina and was an assistant on George Mason's Final Four team. Although the Hilltoppers might have snuck up on you this season, we do have a solid basketball tradition. This will be our seventh appearance in the Sweet 16, advancing to the Final Four in 1971. UCLA has tradition too, a little bit, but it should be noted they have never defeated WKU. — Drew Hensley