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UCLA women’s basketball earns highest NCAA seed in program history

Sophomore center Lauren Betts and sophomore forward Gabriela Jaquez celebrate on the court. The Bruins earned the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. (Brandon Morquecho/Photo editor)

By Grace Whitaker

March 17, 2024 6:35 p.m.

This post was updated March 17 at 7:19 p.m.

With their highest seed in program history, the Bruins will have a shot at claiming their first NCAA title. 

No. 6 UCLA women’s basketball (25-6, 13-5, Pac-12) earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament and will face No. 15 seed California Baptist (28-3, 18-2 WAC) in the first round on either Friday or Saturday. The top-four-seeded Bruins will host the first two rounds of the Tournament. In addition to UCLA, six other Pac-12 teams will have the chance to contend for a national championship.

Narrowly missing the top-ranked seed, coach Cori Close said she is still honored by her second-seeded mark.

“You would have of course loved to be a No. 1 seed, but being a No. 2 seed – … it’s the highest seed in program history, so just wrap your mind around that,” Close said.

Following a first-round victory, UCLA would face the winner of No. 7 seed Creighton and No. 10 seed UNLV. 

This will be the second straight season that the Bruins will host the first two rounds of the tournament. Following the first two wins at home last season, UCLA’s season was cut short in the Sweet 16 by South Carolina. This year, because of the bracket’s configuration, the Bruins wouldn’t face the Gamecocks until the national championship. 

Close said she believes this year’s squad to be UCLA’s strongest team yet.

“It is our deepest team for sure,” Close said. “I definitely believe that we can make a deep run, as long as we’re focused on the correct things.”

Also in the Albany 2 side of the bracket are both the reigning national champion No. 3 seed LSU and runner-up No. 1 seed Iowa. Barring any upsets, the Bruins could face coach Kim Mulkey’s Tigers in the Sweet 16 and the Caitlin Clark-led Hawkeyes in the Elite Eight. 

In the other three corners of the bracket, six fellow Pac-12 opponents made the Big Dance, including No. 1 seeded USC, No. 2 seed Stanford, No. 3 seed Oregon State, No. 5 seed Colorado, No. 5 seed Utah and No. 11 seed Arizona.

Sophomore guard Kiki Rice said she feels well-prepared for the tournament based on the caliber of wins the Bruins have procured thus far.

“I would say the resume and the games that we’ve played throughout this entire season have prepared really well for these next few weeks,” Rice said. 

The first round will come just two weeks after UCLA’s double-overtime loss to USC in the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament. After that loss, March Madness will mark the Bruins’ last shot at a title this year and graduate student guard Charisma Osborne’s last chance to chop down a net as a Bruin.

Close said beyond her team’s odds in March, the current landscape for women’s basketball is remarkable, and this tournament will be the next installment in the growth of the sport.

“You can feel there’s a moment in women in sport happening right now,” Close said. “And I feel like there’s this moment in this NCAA Tournament run. I feel like there’s this moment in Southern California right now, and I don’t want people to miss it.”

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Grace Whitaker | Sports senior staff
Whitaker is currently a senior staff writer on the football, men's basketball and women's basketball beats. She was previously an assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, women's soccer, beach volleyball and cross country beats and a contributor on the women's basketball and beach volleyball beats.
Whitaker is currently a senior staff writer on the football, men's basketball and women's basketball beats. She was previously an assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, women's soccer, beach volleyball and cross country beats and a contributor on the women's basketball and beach volleyball beats.
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