Unpredictability makes the NCAA men’s basketball tournament unique, and ripe for upsets.
After UCLA’s 65-64 opening-round win over Virginia Commonwealth and USC’s 72-55 shocker against Boston College, the Bruins and Trojans each had their season end the next game.
Last Sunday, the 10th-seeded Trojans lost to No. 2 Michigan State, 74-69, behind Travis Walton’s 18 points in the Midwest Regional at Minneapolis, and the No. 6-seeded Bruins were swamped by No. 3 Villanova, 89-69, on Saturday in Philadelphia at the East Regional.
Recalling the glory days, UCLA was seeking a fourth consecutive trip to the Final Four, but were out-muscled, out-rebounded and out-shot by the Wildcats (28-7).
In fairness, UCLA didn’t have three potential starters – Kevin Love, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, and Russell Westbrook. All are in the NBA.
Under Head Coach Tim Floyd, the Trojans have made the tourney a school-record third straight time, and gave the Spartans a real scare.
The game was close, and the Trojans even led 47-42, before the Spartans went on a 10-0 spurt.
UCLA (26-9) played unevenly during much of the season, while USC (22-13) had to win the Pacific 10 Conference tourney just to make the field, which they did, 66-63, over Arizona State.
The Bruins shot 42.6 percent from the floor, compared to 46.3 percent for the Wildcats, and were out-rebounded 41-28.
UCLA senior small forward Josh Shipp tallied a co-game-high 18 points, on five-of-nine from the field, and senior point guard Darren Collison added 15 points.
Junior power forward Nikola Dragovic dropped in 11 points, and collected five rebounds.
The game was dictated by Villanova’s physical presence, and was evident early when Collison was hammered while trying to make a layup.
“They were the more aggressive team,” Collison said, “and the more aggressive team is always going to win.”
Senior center Alfred Aboya snatched eight rebounds and scored nine points for the Bruins, and was tagged with three first-half fouls.
Playing in the Big East, Villanova, which had a 44-31 lead at the intermission, likes rough play.
The Pac-10 isn’t known for rugged play, but UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland has spent time at Pittsburgh – a Big East school – and likes players who are willing to push and shove.
Forward Dante Cunningham scored a team-best 18 points for Villanova, and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Walton was tabbed the Big Ten defensive player of the year, and his points were a career best.
Durrell Summers finished with 11 points and grabbed eight rebounds for the Spartans (28-6).
Guard Dwight Lewis led the Trojans with 19 points and freshman small forward DeMar DeRozan scored 18 points. Guard Daniel Hackett chipped in with 13 points and power forward Leonard Washington poured in 10 points.
Center Taj Gibson fouled out after scoring three points. On Friday against the Eagles, Gibson scored 24 points, made 10-of-10 from the floor, and pulled down six boards.