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Women’s basketball Pac-12 tournament predictions

Senior guard Camryn Brown celebrates with her teammates. The Bruins will head into the upcoming Pac-12 tournament with a 22-8 overall record and an 11-7 conference record. (Jeremy Chen/Assistant Photo editor)

By Gavin Carlson, Leila Bivins, and Alexis Hinkle

Feb. 27, 2023 6:49 p.m.

This post was updated Feb. 28 at 11:58 p.m.

No. 5 seed UCLA women’s basketball (22-8, 11-7 Pac-12) will travel to Las Vegas to face off against Arizona State (8-19, 1-17) in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament and look to win out. Take a look at how Daily Bruin Sports predicts the events of the week to play out.

Gavin Carlson
Daily Bruin staff
Prediction: Lose to Stanford in the semifinals

The Bruins will extend their stay in Las Vegas for a night longer than seeding would suggest.

Full disclosure, I may be biased. I am turning 21 years old two nights before the tournament, so I want the blue and gold’s run in the tournament to last as long as possible while I’m there.

But my motivations aside, UCLA might be one of the most dangerous teams in Pac-12 history to not earn a first-round bye in the conference tournament.

Bold claim, I know. But hear me out.

Despite being ranked No. 17 in the AP poll, the fifth-seeded Bruins will have to play in the first round of the conference tournament Wednesday afternoon.

Since the 2009-2010 season, only four other teams have finished the regular season ranked in the AP top 25 and not earned the coveted first-round bye. And unlike those other three unfortunate squads, UCLA has a No. 1 ranked freshman recruiting class that has shown flashes in addition to one of the conference’s best players in senior guard Charisma Osborne.

Though the Bruins are 2-6 against ranked opponents this season, five of the losses came by single digits.

On Nov. 29, UCLA traveled to No. 1 South Carolina and entered the fourth quarter tied with the defending national champions. The Bruins also experienced two fourth-quarter losses to then-No. 2 and No. 3 Stanford, a two-point defeat at then-No. 4 Utah and an 11-point fourth quarter collapse against then-No. 22 Arizona.

All of those heartbreaking losses can either bury a team or make it tougher. But this is a UCLA team led by Cori Close we’re talking about, so I’ll take the latter.

The Bruins will beat the 12th-seeded Sun Devils to set up a quarterfinal matchup with the fourth-seeded Wildcats – and they’ll win again.

Not only did UCLA clearly outplay Arizona for the first 35 minutes of the teams’ only regular-season contest, but the Wildcats’ back-to-back defeats against two unranked teams to end the season will give the Bruins the edge in Sin City.

With all sorts of momentum heading into a semifinal matchup against Stanford, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Bruins upset the Cardinal – they nearly snuck out of Stanford with a victory on Feb. 20.

But I predict UCLA’s magic will run out in a tight, respectable loss to the Pac-12’s powerhouse team on Friday night.

I’d consider that a successful trip for all parties involved.

Leila Bivins
Daily Bruin contributor
Prediction: Lose to Stanford in the semifinals

The Bruins have proven this year that they can compete with the top teams in the nation, but have fallen short due to sporadic periods of offensive turmoil.

In its most recent matchup against No. 3 Stanford, UCLA entered the third quarter with a deficit of two points and was outscored in the final quarter 21-10, resulting in its 13-point defeat.

The quarterly inconsistencies will not emerge as an issue in the first round, where UCLA will face 12th-seeded Arizona State, but will ultimately result in its loss in the third round when it comes up against powerhouse No. 1 seed Stanford.

When the Bruins take on the Sun Devils, they will control the court early and enter into the second round with ease.

In UCLA’s second matchup, it will face No. 14 Arizona, who is currently deadlocked with UCLA in the Pac-12 conference standings and will win in a close game that will come down to the final possessions of play.

The Bruins were bested in their only matchup against the Wildcats this season, after coming off a two-game losing streak. UCLA picked up 18 offensive rebounds in the match, but was ultimately outscored in the paint 38-16.

The blue and gold will have to capitalize off of its 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-2 freshman forwards Lina Sontag and Christeen Iwuala – who only attempted seven shots combined in the two teams’ previous match – in this contest in order to come out with the tight win against Arizona.

The Bruins’ time in the sun will end soon after, however, as they will fall short in the third round against the Cardinal for the third time this season

The game will be a close tit-for-tat match in the first half, but Stanford will ultimately take control of the rebounding and pace of the game by shutting down UCLA’s offense to take the win and bring UCLA’s season to a close.

Alexis Hinkle
Daily Bruin contributor
Prediction: Lose to Stanford in the semifinals

If there’s one thing the Bruins have shown me this season, it’s that they have tenacity.

In my first season writing for the Daily Bruin on the women’s basketball beat, I’ve taken a look back at past seasons to truly understand these Bruins.

It’s hard to compare the past couple seasons without considering the new additions of the freshmen and the return of several injured veterans. Regardless, they’ve overcome adversity, and I doubt that with their grit, they will go down without a fight.

I predict that after last year’s underwhelming season and their ability to persevere this year, the blue and gold will make it to the semifinals against No. 3 Stanford after defeating the Arizona schools.

In the first round on Wednesday against 12th-seeded Arizona State, the Bruins will dominate the Sun Devils once again. While guard Tyi Skinner caused some trouble for the blue and gold in the conference game earlier this season, her shooting alone won’t be enough to upset the Bruins.

Its first sweep will take UCLA to a rematch with Arizona, who narrowly beat out the Bruins for the No. 4 seed and first-round bye with a head-to-head challenge following the Wildcats’ winless weekend. By outworking 6-foot-2 forward Cate Reese in the paint and eliminating guard/forward Jade Loville, the Bruins will have a shot at defeating the Wildcats. If the blue and gold overcomes Arizona’s size and continues its dominance on the glass, it will live to see another day.

The question still remains: Will the Bruins defeat the Cardinal in the semifinals?

If this season has taught me anything, it’s that rank does not matter. UCLA has a shot against Stanford despite its lower rank. During the conference games, the Bruins proved in both contests that they can battle against a strong team. But they were unable to come out with a victory both times.

While I do believe in “third time’s a charm,” if the blue and gold fails to protect the paint and wait too long to spark offensively, I predict it will fall to Stanford in the semifinals.

However, I hope that the determination the Bruins have shown all season proves me wrong.

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Gavin Carlson | Sports staff
Carlson is currently a staff writer on the football, men's basketball and women's basketball beats. He was previously a reporter on the softball and men's golf beats.
Carlson is currently a staff writer on the football, men's basketball and women's basketball beats. He was previously a reporter on the softball and men's golf beats.
Leila Bivins | Sports contributor
Bivins is currently a Sports contributor on the men's volleyball beat.
Bivins is currently a Sports contributor on the men's volleyball beat.
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