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UCLA Defeats Arizona Again, New Mexico Looks for Second Title

It was semi-final Friday for teams on the West coast. #21 UCLA (25-8, 13-5) again showed the #18 Arizona Wildcats (25-7, 12-6) they own them with a 66-64 win. This represented a third Bruins win this season and now they’ll play the Oregon Ducks (25-8, 12-6) in Saturday’s championship game.

Unfortunately for UCLA, they’ll be without its second-leading scorer, Jordan Adams. The freshman scored 24 points against the Wildcats but on the game’s last play, broke his foot.

Arizona will still get an invite to the Big Dance and CBS Bracketology has them as a #4 seed, playing against #12 Belmont on Thursday to kick things off.

Also on Friday, Oregon punched its tournament ticket final with an easier win over Utah (15-18, 5-13), 64-45. This follows last week’s upset that had the Ducks missing an opportunity for the conference title.

As for the Utes, this season is a wrap. Representing the Pac-12 in the tournament is likely UCLA, Oregon, Arizona, California and Colorado.

Over in the Mountain West Conference, #15 New Mexico (28-5, 13-3) defeated San Diego State (22-10, 9-7), 60-50 in the semifinals.  The #1 seeded Lobos will go for a second straight tournament title.

Lucky for San Diego State, they should get a Big Dance invite and will likely be joined by New Mexico, possibly Boise State, Colorado State and UNLV. As of Saturday, they had a #7 seed and may play against Oklahoma.

Let’s take a look at Saturday’s finals.

UCLA vs. Oregon

UCLA's Shabazz Muhammed

UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammed

UCLA took the Adams news very hard on Friday. He was vital to the team overcoming an 11-point deficit against the Wildcats and with his absence, it will impact the team’s tournament run as he averages 15.2 points per game.

Teammate and fellow freshman Shabazz Muhammad said of the news via ESPN, “We didn’t even celebrate the win. It’s just doesn’t seem right for someone to get hurt like that this late in the year.”

The Bruins will need to immediately get their heads together as they’ll try to snap a three-game losing streak against the Ducks and take the tournament title. It’s been a bit of a dry spell to reach the finals: their last visit came in 2008 but they won against Stanford.

The Ducks will try to capitalize on Adams’ absence. Muhammed is likely to step up but in the Jan. 19 76-67 loss against Oregon, he went 4 for 9 from the floor with 10 points.

Travis Wear has been a key piece for Oregon and will need to show up big on Saturday. In his last two games against the Bruins, he’s scored 17 points apiece and through this conference tournament, he’s scored 26.

Oregon hasn’t won a conference tournament title since 2007.

Which team is hungrier? UCLA has 4 to 1 odds to win it all, followed by the Ducks at 5 to 1.

New Mexico vs. UNLV

The Lobos have already punched their ticket to the Big Dance but they’d like a second straight tournament win. On their way to the finals, they’ve struggled offensively as they’ve shot 40.9 percent, but they’ve kept opponents to 48.0 points per game from 31.6 percent shooting, according to ESPN.

Center Alex Kirk plays well against UNLV with his 23 points and nine rebounds in the Jan. 9 65-60 win, followed by 17 points and career-high 16 rebound in the 64-55 February loss.

That was a momentum changer for the Rebels as it grabbed wins in seven of their last nine conference games and inched up in the standings behind the Lobos.

UNLV Forward Anthony Bennett

UNLV Forward Anthony Bennett

They’ll bring Anthony Bennett as their secret weapon. He is the conference’s Freshman of the Year and in the last match up against the Lobos, he scored 17 points with 12 rebounds and three blocks. Bennett leads the team with his 42 points for the conference tournament.

The Rebels haven’t won the conference tournament since 2008. They’d love to be the spoilers on the home court and have 7 to 4 odds to do so, while the Lobos are 11 to 4 for the title.





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