UCLA earns 43rd trip to NCAA tournament
Some thought the loss of talented guard Jordan Adams to a broken foot would drop UCLA's stock when the NCAA Tournament selections were announced Sunday.Turns out, they didn't drop far enough for UCLA coach Ben Howland.UCLA drew a No. 6 seed and will face No. 11 Minnesota in the South Region of the NCAA Tournament on Friday in Austin, Texas. It's the 43rd trip to the tournament in school history for the Bruins (25-9), who missed out on the tournament in two of the previous three seasons, including last season.But Howland said he would have preferred a lower seed in order to play closer to home. He said the team hoped it would play in San Jose."Two other Pac-12 teams got to go to San Jose," he said. "Honestly, I'd rather be Cal right now playing in San Jose. I'd rather be a 12 seed playing in San Jose."Cal is the No. 12 seed in the East Region and will play UNLV in its opening game. Oregon is the No. 12 seed in the Midwest Region and also plays its first game in San Jose against Oklahoma State.UCLA's standout freshman Shabazz Muhammad agreed with his coach."I don't know why they would put us in Austin," said Muhammad, who leads the Bruins averaging 17.8 points per game. "We proved ourselves all year in the Pac-12. You've just got to deal with adversity and handle business."Making up for the loss of Adams will be a bigger challenge for the Bruins than where they'll be playing.Adams broke his right foot in Friday's Pac-12 tournament semifinal against Arizona. His 15.3 points per game are second to Muhammad, but Howland said Adams is more than a scorer."He's probably our best all-around player," Howland said. "Not only is he our second-leading scorer, he's our best perimeter defender."UCLA did not have time to adjust to playing without Adams in Saturday's Pac-12 tournament title game loss to Oregon, but now Howland and the Bruins will have four days to adjust."I have to do a better job of getting Tony (Parker) more minutes, we've got to use Tony for a minimum of 10 minutes in this game coming up," Howland said. "Just play more people. We've got to get Kyle (Anderson) more comfortable playing more minutes."Anderson, like Muhammad and Adams, is a freshman and part of a very young Bruins team that has only one player - senior guard Larry Drew II- with any NCAA Tournament experience."I'm ready to step up for the challenge and be prepared for it," said Anderson, who averages 9.8 points per game and a team-leading 8.6 rebounds. "Our guys just have to be ready to adjust and make changes. They (coaches) will have something ready for us."In Minnesota, the Bruins will face a team that lost its last three games, including in the first round of the Big Ten Conference Tournament to Illinois, as well as its final two regular season games to Nebraska and Purdue. The Golden Gophers, however, did beat No. 1 Indiana on Feb. 26 and are coached by Tubby Smith, for whom Howland has immense respect."Tubby is one of the best coaches in the country and has proven that during his tenure at Tulsa, Georgia, Kentucky and Minnesota," Howland said. "So they'll be very well prepared."A big point of focus will be the boards. Minnesota ranks No. 8 in the nation in rebound margin (8.2 per game)."Everybody's rebounding concerns me," Howland said.If UCLA beats Minnesota (20-12), the Bruins will play the winner of the No. 3 Florida-No. 14 Northwestern State game.
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