Cronin: UCLA’s seed in bracket preview ‘comical’

LOS ANGELES — The Division I men’s basketball committee revealed its top 16 teams for next month’s NCAA tournament on Saturday, and UCLA coach Mick Cronin found his team’s current seed to be “comical.”

Top-ranked Alabama was voted as the committee’s top overall seed. No. 2 Houston, No. 3 Purdue and No. 5 Kansas were selected as No. 1 seeds — for now.

No. 8 Arizona was chosen as the sixth overall seed, while fourth-ranked UCLA was eighth. The Pac-12 rivals will meet March 4 in their regular-season finale. The Wildcats beat the Bruins 58-52 last month.

“If you ask my one-word answer on that ranking — comical,” a straight-faced Cronin said after the Bruins routed California 78-43 on Saturday night. “I’m going to try not to laugh.”

Cronin attributed the Bruins’ projected seed to last summer’s announcement that UCLA and USC are leaving the Pac-12 to join the Big Ten in 2024.

“When we left the Pac-12, it cost a lot of people millions of dollars and there was going to be fallout, and I think it’s a direct result,” he said. “I had nothing to do with us leaving the league, but you deal with the fallout being a lame duck.”

The committee placed the 16 teams into the four regions. The Bruins (23-4 overall, 14-2 Pac-12) landed in the East Regional, to be played in New York, along with Purdue, No. 11 overall seed Iowa State and No. 14 overall seed Marquette.

Meanwhile, Arizona (24-4, 13-4) was placed in the West, to be played in Las Vegas, with Kansas, No. 12 seed Kansas State and No. 15 seed Gonzaga.

“A couple years ago we proved your seed doesn’t matter,” Cronin said.

In 2021, the 11th-seeded Bruins reached the Final Four before losing in overtime to Gonzaga in the national semifinals.

UCLA’s leading scorer, Jaime Jaquez Jr., said he wasn’t aware the preview bracket had been announced.

“I’ll wait for the final bracket to be excited or not excited,” he said. “Probably excited.”

The bracket preview show aired on CBS.

Selection Sunday for the NCAA Tournament is March 12.

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