Joe Lunardi lecturing UCLA on the NCAA Tournament: Isn't that precious?

The "Judge Judy" trial pitting UCLA vs. Joe Lunardi might be billed "Blown Gaskets vs. Joey Brackets.”

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Less than a week before Selection Sunday, ESPN’s resident NCAA Tournament expert continues to have UCLA lagging as a No. 3 seed in the Midwest Region.

This seems counter to all other available information.

UCLA (28-3) is ranked No. 3 nationally by the AP and USA Today voting coaches.

They are ranked No. 4 in power rankings postulated by ESPN “insider” Jeff Goodman.

Which ESPN expert are we supposed to believe here?

UCLA enters this week’s Pac 12 Tournament in Las Vegas seeded higher in other respected mocks: Mark Blaudschun of TMG College Sports has UCLA as a No. 2 in the South.

So do bracket men Stewart Mandel of (Fox Sports) and Jerry Palm (CBS Sports).

It’s not so much where Lunardi has placed UCLA, though, as to how he’s doing it.

Last week he delivered a 1 minute, 22-second video to justify his Eastwood position on Westwood.

It was a condescending, talk-down-to-them piece presented like Mr. Rogers to kindergartners on Sesame Street.

“Apparently,” Mr. Lunardi says, “if it says UCLA across the jersey, facts don’t matter.”

Wow.

It’s not that Bruin fans can’t be needy and whiny—they can.

They have a history of thinking their football program is better than it is.

UCLA basketball fans, though, don’t need to be lectured on how the NCAA Tournament works.

Especially from a Philly guy who has concocted the biggest boondoggle gig in the history of sports cable--bracketology.

UCLA is not Podunk State. UCLA has won 11 national titles. Better than that, it once won 38 consecutive, single-elimination tournament games. Think about that. It may be the greatest record in the history of sports.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

People today, because they can, like to chip away at the UCLA dynasty of the 1960s and 70s. Some say Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s five NCAA titles are equal to John Wooden’s 10 because it is harder to win now.

Every time I check, though, five is only half of 10.

Maybe it is harder to win now. In Wooden’s day, people say, UCLA “only” needed to win four tournament games to win the NCAA.

Due to expansion, my goodness, today’s champion has to win six.

If you extrapolate that against the 38 straight wins, that means UCLA would have only won six straight NCAA titles (instead of seven, sorry).

No, Mr. Lunardi, UCLA doesn’t need a lecture on the NCAA field. The Bruins haven't won an NCAA title since 1995, but did advance to three straight Final Fours as recently as 2006, 07 and 08.

UCLA might deserve an explanation.

Lunardi’s theory is partly a cop-out. He’s providing cover for himself by saying his prediction is based on how he thinks the NCAA is thinking.

But what do you think, Joe, when you watch UCLA play?

Forget about RPI--what do your eyes tell you?

It’s true the NCAA Selection committee had UCLA on its initial No. 4 line, but that was before UCLA avenged all three of its losses to Oregon, USC and Arizona.

And what are early mocks worth anyway? Last fall, the College Football Playoff committee had one-loss Texas A&M at No. 4 in its first rankings release, ahead of undefeated Washington.

Some of us “so-called experts” busted a gut.

What did the committee know that we didn’t?

Nothing.

Washington made the playoff and Texas A&M, as usual, collapsed down the stretch.

Lunardi’s jabs at UCLA seem personal--which also happens to be the worst kind of expert prognostication. His video was a smug, unnecessary, ESPN-era put down of the greatest men's program in NCAA history.

Remember, 10 of UCLA's 11 titles happened before ESPN was born.

Not only do Bruins have a just case in countering Lunardi's "inside" expertise, they deserve more respect.

Lunardi claims he is using “facts” to justify UCLA’s seeding.

In fact, he is collating information.

He is holding UCLA accountable for a woeful nonconference schedule made worse by the fact legitimate opponents like Ohio State, Nebraska and Texas A&M have had sub-par seasons. Long Beach State and UC Santa Barbara, two normally respectable Big West schools, are also down.

Lunardi is assimilating data, not facts, in a vacuum that may not be present reality. He claims in his video UCLA was only third in the Pac 12, which is true, but fails to note UCLA won the second meetings against (Oregon) and (Arizona).

Shouldn't improvement, during the course of a season, triumph a data point from December?

UCLA owns three of the best wins in the country, has defeated every team on its schedule and is one of the few teams ever to post same-season wins at Kentucky and Arizona.

Shouldn't the most important question be: how has UCLA looked since not losing a game since January?

It would have been fairer to slot UCLA as a No. 3 based on uncertainty due to a recent ankle injury to freshman star T.J. Leaf.

Lunardi, though, had UCLA on the No. 3 line before Leaf turned his ankle. With that in mind, should he have not dropped UCLA back down to No. 4?

Mark Blaudschun, of our very own TMG College Sports, has always given Lunardi credit for turning the bracket into a cottage industry.

Blaudschun has more quietly matched Lunardi, virtually line for bracket line, year after year, with much less fanfare. Blaudschun doesn't do his bracket for ESPN. He does it in his spare time, between breaking national news stories.

The myth of "bracketology" is that it is brain surgery.

Hardly.

“Picking the bracket isn’t a scam,” Blaudschun says, “but picking the field is a scam. You should get 95% without blinking.”

Even picking the field isn't that difficult once you know the bracketing rules.

Lunardi, of course, could end up right about UCLA. A loss in the Pac 12 Tournament could put the Bruins on the No. 3 line.

On this date, though, at this time, UCLA has played better than that.

By the way: how does Lunardi justify seven-loss Louisville on the No. 2 line?

The Cardinals just lost Sunday to 17-12 Wake Forest.

But wait, Joe. We thought you said “facts” matter.[/membership]

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