By: PJ Guippone
In order to make predictions for the direction of sports nearly five months in advance, you need to have way too much information for the level of writer you actually are, but when that prediction comes true, it feels damn good.
Every year on day one of the college basketball season, I like to make predictions of who is going to be good. You may ask, why would you do something pointless like that, PJ? Well I’ll tell you why. I have too much time on my hands and way too much poorly placed passion in watching, reading about, breathing, sleeping, and eating basketball.
This year I had two teams that I would root for with the passion I possess for my actually beloved Villanova Wildcats. The first, Indiana, had a very promising preseason, but their lack of on-court leadership, paired with some unfortunately timed injuries led to a very rapid regression and lowering of their seemingly nonexistent ceiling.
The second was one I felt very confident in and today was validated by the beautifully meaningless Associated Press top 25. After putting up a whopping 127 points against Pacific, leaving the team as a smoldering pile of burned wreckage, UCLA put the nation on notice. I proudly proclaimed to my friends, “Pals, this is one of the three best teams in the country,” to which I got scathing responses and even a few inquiries for me to utter a “quack” (Mark chose Oregon as his day one prediction). I stood firm, though. The word “quack” did not leave my lips. Instead I looked proudly at my number 0 UCLA jersey and waited for the day I would be validated.
Today was that day. UCLA was voted to number three in the latest AP poll thanks to Gonzaga’s first loss of the season. Barring catastrophe in the last week of the season, or an early exit from the PAC-12 tournament, there is a good chance they will secure a #1 seed in the national tournament. If they can do that, expect them to scorch their way to the Sweet 16, leaving the first weekend in ash and smoke. From there, anything is possible depending on how hot they actually get in their first two contests. I think this team is a Final Four lock, and I think it’s due time for their “problem” of defense to get a lot less attention and conversation.