Thursday , Mar , 15 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Bruins set for another tournament run, as they open with Wildcats

Sacramento, CA (Sports Network) – The second-seeded UCLA Bruins begin their
march to the Final Four this evening when they collide with the 15th-seeded
Weber State Wildcats in the first round of the NCAA Tournament from ARCO
Arena.

The Wildcats head into this event as the clear underdog to the far superior
Bruins, but UCLA better be careful because Weber State has been known to
post huge wins in the Big Dance. In 1995, the Wildcats defeated Michigan State
in the first round and in 1999 Weber State disposed of North Carolina in
the first game of the tournament. Overall the Wildcats are just 6-14 in the
Big Dance and are making their first appearance since 2003. After
suffering an embarrassing, 105-83 setback to Sacramento State in their
regular season-finale, the Wildcats regrouped and defeated Portland State
(77-74) and Northern Arizona (88-80) en route to the Big Sky Tournament
Championship.

As for the Bruins, they are one of the most notable schools in NCAA
Tournament history. UCLA has won 90 games in this event, which is second
most, trailing only Kentucky (99). UCLA has reached the Final Four 16 times
and in those 16 appearances the Bruins have won 11 National Titles. Last
year the Bruins fell just short of making it 12 NCAA championships, as the
team was downed by Florida in the title game. Once again this year the Bruins
were one of the top teams in the Pac-10 and won the regular-season title for
the second consecutive year. While the team did finish with an
outstanding 26-5 record, the Bruins stumbled down the stretch, losing their
last regular season game, 61-51, to Washington, which was followed by a
shocking, 76-69 overtime loss to California in the Pac-10 Tournament.

The only meeting between these two schools on the hardwood took place back
in 1972. The setting for that matchup was similar, as the Bruins posted a
convincing, 90-58 win over the Wildcats in the opening round of the NCAA
Tournament. UCLA head coach Ben Howland is a graduate of Weber State.

Despite shooting an impressive 49.3 percent from the field, the Wildcats
clawed their way through the season averaging a mediocre 71.7 ppg. Weber State
was decent from behind the arc (39.8 percent), but struggled from the foul
line (67.1 percent) and also committed close to 16 turnovers per contest.
David Patten is the most consistent threat for Weber State offensively, as the
big man heads into this matchup averaging 14.4 ppg, while also grabbing 5.5
rpg. Juan Pablo Silveira and Dezmon Harris have also made solid contributions
this season, as Silveira is netting 11.2 ppg, while leading the team with 102
assists. As for Harris, he is posting 10.9 ppg on the year, but the guard also
has a team-high 95 turnovers.

Considering how mediocre Weber State is offensively, the Bruins must be
licking their chops for this matchup. UCLA has been touted as one of the
toughest defensive teams in the country and rightfully so, as the squad enters
tonight’s game surrendering just 60.6 ppg, while limiting opponents to a 43.3
percent shooting effort from the floor. The Bruins have the ability to put
consistent pressure on their opponents and it shows as the team has forced 482
turnovers thus far, while also collecting 235 steals. Offensively, UCLA was
not overwhelming on the season, but the team played smart, mistake-free
basketball. The Bruins are averaging 72.5 ppg on the season, while shooting a
healthy 48.4 percent from the field. Another positive aspect for the Bruins is
their ability to played a smooth, controlled game, as the team is averaging
only 12.2 turnovers per game. Foul shooting is the only downside to the Bruins
offensively, as the team is netting just 64.7 percent of its attempts from the
charity stripe. Pac-10 Player of the Year Arron Afflalo has been one of the
top players in the nation and is certainly the Bruins main option offensively.
The guard is leading the team with 16.7 ppg, while shooting a solid 46.7
percent from the field. Josh Shipp and Darren Collison have also done well for
the Bruins, as Shipp is netting 13.5 ppg, while Collison is averaging 12.6 ppg
to go along with a team-best 179 assists. Taking care of business down low is
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who is chipping in 8.7 ppg, while leading the squad
with 7.7 rpg.

UCLA WEBERST