LAS VEGAS — The two premier college basketball programs on the west coast, Gonzaga and UCLA, will meet in Las Vegas on Thursday evening for a chance to advance to the Elite 8.
The game is highly anticipated thanks in part to the history between these two programs, dating back 17 years (to the day) when UCLA came back from 17 down and defeated the Bulldogs, leaving an emotional Adam Morrison on the floor and creating a lasting memory of the heartbreak of college sports.
Gonzaga and UCLA met again in 2021 and revenge was dished out in a major way when Jalen Suggs took the ball to half court and launched a 37-footer at the buzzer, which banked in and sent the Zags to another national championship and sent the Bruins - a plucky play-in 11 seed that year - home in dramatic fashion.
These memories make this game feel even more monumental than a typical Sweet 16 matchup, and Locked on Zags and Locked on UCLA hosts Andy Patton and Zachary Anderson-Yoxsimer got together to discuss the history and the current matchup in a crossover episode.
"I think it's fun we are seeing this west coast rivalry develop," Patton said. "West coast college basketball doesn't get a lot of press. UCLA and Gonzaga and Arizona are the three west coast programs that really stand out, and for good reason."
This year's matchup may not feature a figure as iconic as Morrison, or a superstar freshman like Suggs, but Drew Timme is a national player of the year finalist while Jaime Jaquez is an All-American and one of the best pure scorers in college basketball.
Unsurprisingly, the key for each team in this game is figuring out how to stop the other team's high profile scorer, although there will be plenty of other keys for these teams to execute if they want to advance to an Elite 8 matchup against either UConn or Arkansas.
"I think it comes down to UCLA spacing the floor with [David] Singleton and [Tyger] Campbell, which opens up the lane for [Amari] Bailey or [Adem] Bona to make those moves. And it just depends on how many turnovers lead to easy points for UCLA. Because they need a lot of easy points."
Will this game give us an instant classic like two of the last matchups have? Time will tell, but two highly skilled, well coached teams playing with everything on the line sure feels like a game made for Hollywood's eyes. We will see if it delivers.