Women’s basketball Pac-12 tournament predictions
No. 8 UCLA women’s basketball posted a 14-4 Pac-12 record this season – tied for the best conference record during coach Cori Close’s time in Westwood. The Bruins will enter the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas as the No. 2 seed. (Axel Lopez/Daily Bruin senior staff)
This post was updated March 5 at 3:09 p.m.
No. 8 UCLA women’s basketball (25-4, 14-4 Pac-12) will enter this weekend’s Pac-12 tournament as the No. 2 seed, granting the Bruins a first-round bye. UCLA will then face the winner of No. 7 seed USC (16-13, 8-10) and No. 10 seed Colorado (16-13, 5-13) in the second round Friday, with a chance to earn a spot in Saturday’s semifinals and ultimately Sunday’s championship. Read the Daily Bruin staffers’ takes on how far the Bruins will go.
Women’s basketball beat writer
Prediction: Lose to Stanford in semifinals
UCLA will get to the semifinals of this weekend’s Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas but will not advance any further.
Regardless of who the Bruins will face in the second round, UCLA should easily defeat either USC or Colorado.
The Bruins suffered their first loss of the season to the Trojans, but that defeat came without junior forward Michaela Onyenwere – UCLA’s leading scorer. In the Bruins’ home victory against the Trojans, they blew out their crosstown rival, and UCLA went 2-0 this season against Colorado, building as much as a 25-point lead against the Buffaloes in the first faceoff.
Where coach Cori Close’s squad will run into trouble is in its second round. With No. 3 seed Stanford awaiting the winner of No. 11 seed Washington State and No. 6 seed Oregon State, the Cardinal should advance to meet UCLA, given that Stanford defeated the Beavers and the Cougars twice each on the season.
While the Bruins were able to best the Cardinal on the road in the team’s lone meeting this season, it took 29 points from Onyenwere and a career-high 14 points off the bench from junior guard Chantel Horvat. Stanford shot almost 45% from the field this season but seemed to have an off night at Maples Pavilion when it only made 36.6% of its shots from the field. The Cardinal’s scoring and coach Tara VanDerveer’s experience will be too much for UCLA.
But as mid-March looms right around the corner, the Bruins won’t have to wait long for another chance at making some hardwood magic.
Women’s basketball beat writer
Prediction: Win the tournament
The Bruins have shown they can hang with anyone.
They beat Stanford on the road by double digits and matched Oregon in the final three quarters of its encounter despite shooting 2-of-23 from 3.
My initial reaction to the bracket was that UCLA got a tough schedule. The Bruins will face either USC – which they lost to earlier in the season, albeit without junior forward Michaela Onyenwere – or Colorado – which UCLA eked past by three points on the road on Jan. 12 – in the second round.
But the Pac-12 is ridiculously stacked, featuring six ranked teams – the most top-25 teams ever to enter the tournament in a single season.
Despite Close heralding her players’ shooting prowess at the start of the season, the Bruins have been the worst 3-point shooting team in the Pac-12, hitting just 28.5% of their attempts from beyond the arc.
But I refuse to believe that figure is an accurate representation of the team’s shooting ability. Redshirt senior guard Japreece Dean, redshirt sophomore guard Lindsey Corsaro and Onyenwere have all inexplicably seen at least a 5% dip in their accuracy from deep compared to last season.
Close’s team has not lost a game all season when it has either shot above 25% from 3 or kept its opponents under 33% from deep. UCLA has been afforded such a wide margin of error because of its conference-leading 16.6 offensive rebounds per game and 11.7 giveaways per game – the second-least in the Pac-12. By excelling in what they can control, such as minimizing careless turnovers and rebounding the ball well, the Bruins have suffered just four losses all season.
Despite Close’s attempts to divert focus from the team’s inefficient 3-point shooting in press conferences, marksmanship will be pivotal for the Bruins to advance far.
I am predicting that UCLA sees a regression to the mean in terms of its 3-point shooting to usher the way to its first Pac-12 tournament title since 2006.
Digital Managing editor
Prediction: Win the tournament
Listen, I know you’ve probably – or not – read my past sports predictions. They’re usually about UCLA football miraculously scoring a victory against a top-tier team in the hopes that my traveling efforts are worthwhile.
But things are different this time.
I’ve been following UCLA women’s basketball since my sophomore year. I’ve sat courtside to see the team almost clinch a spot in the 2018 conference championship game before falling to Oregon in the final minute of play, and although it’s been nearly two years since I shot the championship tournament, I haven’t missed watching a single tournament game.
The Bruins lost to the Ducks twice in the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament during my time in Westwood, and both losses were painfully close.
In 2018, Oregon closed a 13-point lead and defeated UCLA in the final minute of play. In 2019, the Bruins fell to the Ducks in overtime after trailing the Ducks for the most of the game.
UCLA won’t face Oregon in the semifinals this year. In fact, the Bruins won’t meet the Ducks unless they make it all the way to the finals.
Instead, UCLA will play the winner of the first-round matchup between Colorado and USC, earning a bye as the No. 2 seed. I’m no sports expert, but based on past performance – the Bruins beat the Buffaloes and Trojans each by at least 10 points during conference play this year – UCLA should have the rematches in the bag.
Now for the semifinals, UCLA would face either Stanford, Washington State or Oregon State – three more teams the Bruins defeated in the regular season.
I know victories aren’t direct determinants of game time performance, but given this momentum, I predict UCLA will make it all the way to the finals.
And in this final matchup against Oregon, I say we win. After all, third time’s the charm.
Prediction: Lose to Oregon in the finals
I’m a graphics contributor, not a sports writer. But I have been following UCLA this year, not only in my graphic coverage, but also as a fan.
Throughout the season, I have been belittled by some of my friends – who happen to be beat writers for women’s basketball – over the graphics work I do for the Daily Bruin, as they claim all I do is color.
So I will base this prediction off of what, apparently, I know best: colors.
UCLA has a first-round bye and will then face the winner of the Colorado and USC first-round match up. The Buffaloes’ sole non-grey color, CU Gold, almost resembles a cheap knockoff of classic gold and fails to complement any of Colorado’s three different shades of black. It’s no match for USC’s cardinal and gold.
The quarterfinals will be a tight battle between the Bruins’ and the Trojans’ classic color schemes, but given UCLA’s traditional basketball success donning the blue and gold, the former will prevail. USC’s color scheme’s resemblance to ketchup and mustard will be too much for them to overcome.
The Bruins’ next matchup will most likely be Stanford, which boasts colors iconic enough to be the mascot of the university. Stanford’s cardinal carries the weight of its two-color scheme, but its overall lack of diversity will be its downfall.
UCLA’s final opponent, probably No. 1 seed Oregon, has a color scheme with the brazenness and diversity to end the Bruins’ run. The Ducks’ colors feature a wide range of variations of their base green and gold, such as forest green, chartreuse and spicy mustard. In this matchup, it will be the comparative simplicity of the Bruins’ scheme that will send them home.
Though UCLA has tradition on its side, Oregon has the advantage of innovation and sightliness.