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Men’s water polo MPSF tournament predictions

UCLA men’s water polo dropped its final two games of the regular season and will enter the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament as the No. 3 seed behind No. 1 seed California and No. 2 seed USC, who the Bruins are a combined 0-3 against this season. (David Rimer/Assistant Photo editor)

By Kyle Boal, Ricardo Garcia, and Cole Lizar

Nov. 18, 2021 12:39 p.m.

No. 3 seed UCLA men’s water polo (16-3, 1-2 MPSF) dropped its final two games of the regular season, but the blue and gold could have the chance to avenge those losses in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament, hosted at Avery Aquatic Center by No. 4 seed Stanford (17-5, 0-3). The Bruins could match up against No. 2 seed USC (16-1, 2-1) in the semifinals followed by a potential MPSF championship game against No. 1 seed California (20-2, 4-0). Daily Bruin Sports predicts the Bruins’ MPSF tournament fate.

Kyle Boal
Daily Bruin senior staff
Prediction: MPSF fourth place

The Bruins aren’t known for their MPSF championship win total.

In fact, UCLA has tied for the least conference championships since 1992 with Cal and has finished fourth in the conference in its last two appearances.

But the tournament doesn’t hold much weight anyway, as the victor has only gone on to win the NCAA championship two times in the last seven seasons.

After back-to-back losses to end their season, the Bruins fell from the top seed to the third seed, meaning UCLA will draw the loser of Austin College (6-8) and winless Penn State Behrend (0-18). Either way, the blue and gold will put up 20 in a tune-up win where sophomore goalkeeper Garret Griggs may get the start in the cage.

No. 2 seed USC will be waiting for UCLA in a rematch, this time in neutral territory at Avery Aquatic Center. The crosstown splashdown’s first edition this season ended in a hard-fought, dirty, gritty contest, in which coach Adam Wright earned a red card in a one-point defeat.

The Bruins fell twice in a row to the Trojans before defeating them in the national championship a season ago. This time, UCLA will fall in a multi-goal loss to USC, its second in a row, before meeting them again down the line in the national championship later this season.

Here’s where I predict things get wacky. Stanford – winner of a conference-record three consecutive MPSF tournaments – will upset top-seeded Cal at home in pursuit of extending its record to four. The Cardinal played the Golden Bears to an overtime loss earlier in the season.

In this scenario, UCLA draws Cal, who it has not overcome in five out of six attempts over the last two seasons. This matchup will be no different than when the Golden Bears handed the Bruins a wire-to-wire defeat to end the regular season.

But as I said before, winning the MPSF tournament does not matter. There are no banners hung at Spieker Aquatics Center for conference tournament wins. The Bruins may not win the conference crown, but that does not mean their pursuit for back-to-back titles is finished.

Ricardo Garcia
Daily Bruin reporter
Prediction: MPSF runners-up

There are reasons to be both optimistic and pessimistic about where the Bruins wound up in the MPSF tournament bracket.

The good part is that UCLA will, in all likelihood, draw Penn State Behrend in the quarterfinals, which should serve as a chance to regroup after losing two straight matches to end the regular season. The Lions have yet to win any of their 18 games so far this season, and the last time the two teams met, the blue and gold crushed them 27-4.

The first round should give the Bruins one final chance to correct any outstanding issues – like their struggling power play – before they tackle tougher competition.

The bad part, however, is that UCLA’s road to defending its NCAA championship likely goes through two teams it hasn’t beaten this season.

At the moment, the season looks like a grim repeat of 2019, when the Bruins dropped four of five to end the season and were ultimately left out of the NCAA tournament. At worst, UCLA would likely need to make it to the MPSF championship game to show the committee why it is worthy of defending its championship.

I’m choosing to be optimistic and say the Bruins at least make it to the final round of the MPSF tournament.

No. 2 seed USC serves as a more favorable matchup on UCLA’s side of the bracket, and both teams have been relatively evenly matched since last season. No. 1 seed Cal, on the other hand, has played like they are the best team in the country.

All the Bruins need is a better showing than they had in their regular season finale, win or lose, to keep their season alive. I’m confident they will do so.

Cole Lizar
Daily Bruin contributor
Prediction: MPSF champions

Despite the fact that the Bruins have already lost to the two teams they’ll likely have to beat to win the tournament, I believe the blue and gold will bring the MPSF trophy back to Westwood this weekend.

On paper, UCLA should not beat the two teams seeded higher than it in No. 1 seed Cal and No. 2 seed USC.

The Bruins have only three losses this season, two of which resulted from head-to-head battles against the Golden Bears and the third of which came from a bitter defeat in a crosstown rivalry game against the Trojans.

To win the MPSF championship this weekend, the blue and gold will likely have to beat both teams for the first time this season.

Sports predictions are not an exact science, but I have acquired the skill of predicting the outcome of games with stunning accuracy. I have become so accurate that I was blacklisted from sports betting in Las Vegas – it was either that or the fact that I have yet to turn 21, but I like to believe it was the former.

In the first round, UCLA will face either Austin College or winless Penn State Behrend. I believe the Bruins will earn a dominant win against either opponent.

In the next two rounds, UCLA will likely encounter USC on Saturday and Cal in the championship game Sunday.

In the Bruins’ last meeting with the Trojans, USC held a slight advantage by competing in its home pool, and yet the Bruins only lost by a single point. I believe that in the neutral environment of Avery Aquatic Center this weekend, the blue and gold will come out on top by the same margin.

That leaves UCLA facing the nation’s top-ranked team, Cal, in the final game of the tournament.

After suffering two painful losses to the Golden Bears earlier in the season, I believe the Bruins will have ample motivation to finally beat their Northern California rivals and come out on top this weekend.

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Kyle Boal | Sports senior staff
Boal is currently a Sports senior staff writer on the football, men's water polo and swim & dive beats. He was an assistant Sports editor on the gymnastics, rowing, swim and dive, men's water polo and women's water polo beats. Boal was previously a contributor on the men's water polo and women's water polo beats.
Boal is currently a Sports senior staff writer on the football, men's water polo and swim & dive beats. He was an assistant Sports editor on the gymnastics, rowing, swim and dive, men's water polo and women's water polo beats. Boal was previously a contributor on the men's water polo and women's water polo beats.
Ricardo Garcia | Sports reporter
Garcia is currently a reporter on the men's water polo and swim & dive beats. He was previously a contributor on the track & field beat.
Garcia is currently a reporter on the men's water polo and swim & dive beats. He was previously a contributor on the track & field beat.
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