It's not likely that UCLA will be looking past struggling Arizona State, which plays at Pauley Pavilion tonight, even though on Saturday the Bruins will face Arizona, currently ranked third in the nation and the Pacific 10 Conference basketball leader.
The way the Bruins' season has gone, they can't afford to look past anybody.
The Bruins can no longer reasonably hope to win the regular-season conference title, and their chances to win at least 19 games and earn an at-large bid to the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. tournament are shaky, at best.
At this point, they are battling for a respectable place in the final Pac-10 standings and a favorable seeding for the Pac-10 tournament--which represents their best chance for an NCAA berth.
With six regular-season games to play, UCLA is 11-12 overall and tied for third with Oregon State in the Pac-10 at 7-5.
It should be good news that four of the Bruins' remaining regular-season games will be played at Pauley Pavilion. But with crowds averaging only 7,762 this season, being at home won't be any more an advantage than it was for Arizona State when the Bruins won at Tempe before a small crowd last month.
Arizona State, which has lost its last three games to Stanford, Oregon State and Oregon, is 13-10 overall, 6-7 in the conference and in sixth place.
Both UCLA Coach Walt Hazzard and Arizona State Coach Steve Patterson played under UCLA Coach John Wooden, and their coaching systems are so much alike, Hazzard says, "It's like playing with a mirror."
Kevin Walker, the Bruins' 6-foot 10-inch forward/center who leads the team in three-point field goals (32 of 64, shooting 50% from long range), is expected to be available against the Sun Devils. He missed the USC game and the game at Notre Dame with a sprained ankle.
Walker's availability is very good news for the Bruins, according to Hazzard, who thought when Walker went down in practice last week that he would be out for the season.
Arizona State, on the other hand, will be without starting center Mark Becker, a 6-9 sophomore who has bronchitis.
Tonight's game at 7:30 will not be televised, but will be broadcast on KMPC radio (710 AM). . . . The Bruins won their last conference game, last week at USC, and have won seven of their last nine Pac-10 games, but are coming off a nonconference loss at Notre Dame. . . . The last time the Bruins played the Sun Devils, in Tempe, Ariz., UCLA won, 94-81, and had five players in double figures. The Bruins made 59.8% of their shots from the floor. . . . Steve Patterson, the starting center on UCLA's 1969-70 and 1970-71 championship teams, has a 2-4 record against the Bruins in the three years he has been Arizona State coach. . . . UCLA's scoring has been balanced, with forward Trevor Wilson averaging 15.3 points a game, Dave Immel averaging 14.8 and Pooh Richardson averaging 12.7. Wilson also leads in rebounds, with 9.3 a game, and Richardson leads in assists and steals.