Stanford is better than UCLA at a lot of things.
The Cardinal have long been ranked above the Bruins academically, but at least UCLA could claim athletic superiority – until December.
With a women’s soccer NCAA national championship Dec. 3, Stanford took over the title of the school with the most team NCAA championships, but only until UCLA’s men’s water polo team reclaimed it that same day.
The tie didn’t last long, and the Cardinal once again took the lead the following week by winning the NCAA men’s soccer championship.
This time, the duration of that lead is in danger of being much, much longer. Since the class of 2018 started college, UCLA has won just three NCAA championships compared to Stanford’s 13.
Neither team is expected to be cutting down the nets at the end of March Madness, but Saturday’s matchup between the Bruins and the Cardinal is more than just a conference game between two unranked teams.
We can’t let them have basketball, too.
When the teams last faced off, UCLA fell in double overtime. Junior guard Aaron Holiday sent the game to double overtime by sinking a 3-pointer as time expired in one of the most memorable plays of the season so far. However, the Cardinal outlasted the Bruins and won 107-99.
Stanford boasts 10 consecutive football wins over UCLA, a fact which previously was easier to swallow because, as Bruin fans always argue, “We’re a basketball school.” John Wooden, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, 11 national championships and so on.
If the Bruins lose Saturday, it would mark the first time since 2005 that they lose twice to the Cardinal in one season. For some context of how long ago that was, the Bruins have beat the Cardinal in football four times since then. UCLA managed to make the NCAA Tournament that year, but with its lowest seed in history.
This weekend marks the midpoint of conference play for the Bruins, and they head into this weekend with their chances of making it to the postseason a huge question mark.
Assuming UCLA can manage California – a team that has only won one Pac-12 game – Thursday, a win over Stanford could be the momentum swing needed for the Bruins to charge into the second half of the league season with their dream of dancing still alive.
Being able to avenge its earlier loss would give UCLA a much-needed confidence boost after three consecutive losses and, more importantly, would pad UCLA’s schedule as it heads into a tough back half of the conference season that includes two games against USC and trips to Arizona and Arizona State.
Saturday’s matchup against the Cardinal is more than a midseason brawl between two mediocre teams. It’s an opportunity for UCLA to hold onto a shred of superiority over Stanford – even if it is just in men’s basketball.