YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

UCLA basketball team can't seem to establish poll position

Despite a run of 12 wins in 14 games and victories this season over three teams currently ranked in the top 18, the Bruins (21-8) still can't crack the Associated Press or USA Today/ESPN top-25 rankings. Negative perceptions of Pac-10 may be a factor.

March 01, 2011|By Ben Bolch
  • UCLA center Joshua Smith looks to score against Arizona forward Derrick Williams in the second half Thursday night at Pauley Pavillion.
UCLA center Joshua Smith looks to score against Arizona forward Derrick… (Jayne Kamin-Oncea / US Presswire )

A stretch in which UCLA has won 12 of 14 games while posting victories over St. John's and Arizona was not enough to thrust the Bruins into the national rankings Monday.

Apparently, there's no beating the perception that the Pacific 10 Conference is dreadful.

"They're probably getting unfairly dinged by everyone around the country, and me as well, because the league is down," said George Schroeder, a columnist from the Eugene (Ore.) Register-Guard who did not include the Bruins in the Associated Press poll he submitted this week.

UCLA was not ranked in either the AP survey or USA Today/ESPN coaches' poll after its 22-point drubbing of then-No. 10 Arizona on Saturday, and it wasn't even that close. The Bruins (21-8 overall, 12-4 Pac-10) received 75 points in the AP poll, well behind George Mason and Temple, which each received 120 points but were also unranked.

In the USA Today/ESPN poll, UCLA received 24 points, trailing unranked Xavier (67) and Temple (57).

A UCLA spokesman said Coach Ben Howland was on the road recruiting and was not immediately available for comment.

The Bruins' case for poll position seems strong: They have victories over current No. 3 Brigham Young, No. 15 St. John's and No. 18 Arizona, and they are tied with the Wildcats atop the Pac-10 standings. They have also lost only twice since Jan. 9.

But pollsters appear to be holding against the Bruins the fact that Arizona is the only ranked Pac-10 team.

"The Pac-10 has not been as well regarded as some other leagues, and I'm sure that's part of the calculus," said ESPN basketball analyst Jay Bilas, who does not vote in the AP poll.

A slow start in which UCLA lost four of its first seven games, including a home defeat against Montana, may also be plaguing the Bruins. Bruce Pascoe of the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson, one of the 64 AP pollsters, did not rank UCLA this week and said the Bruins came onto his radar only following their 66-59 victory over St. John's on Feb. 5.

"When you really look at them and compare them to some of the teams that are in there, they're all pretty comparable in a lot of ways," Pascoe said. "I think they're right in that mix, they're just slightly outside."

Not surprisingly, UCLA is more highly regarded by coaches and AP voters in California.

UC Santa Barbara Coach Bob Williams, one of 31 coaches who vote in the USA Today/ESPN poll, has ranked the Bruins for the last month, putting them at No. 23 this week, according to a school spokesman. St. Mary's Coach Randy Bennett also had UCLA in his top 25 this week, a school spokesman said.

Among local AP pollsters, Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News had UCLA ranked No. 18 and Scott Reid of the Orange County Register had the Bruins at No. 21. Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News, the only other California writer to participate in the AP poll, had UCLA at No. 22.

The Times, as a matter of policy, does not participate in voting for polls or awards.

Bilas said the polls typically lag behind what's happening on the court and that oftentimes teams "have to get there and drag the pollsters along with you." But ranked or unranked, Bilas said, it doesn't change UCLA's standing heading into March.

"The beauty of it is it doesn't matter," Bilas said, "because they're going to be in the NCAA tournament and have a chance to win when they get there."

Los Angeles Times Articles