A month ago, the day Arkansas was voted the No. 1 team in the country by the Associated Press, Coach Eddie Sutton scoffed and said it didn't mean much.
He added that it might even be to the Razorback's advantage if they lost the Southwest Conference championship and got into the NCSS championship tournament as an at-large team, because the SWC champion was going to the Midwest Regional and probably would face Kansas at Kansas in the regional semi-finals.
"I can't think of many things worse than playing Kansas in Lawrence (Kan.) that early in the tournament, except maybe having to play at UCLA," Sutton said.
Arkansas did lose the SWC championship, received its at-large bid and Sutton's worst fears have come to be.
The NCAA championship regional tournament begins tonight and in the West semifinals here Arkansas plays UCLA.
The Razorbacks aren't running scared and Sutton thinks his fifth-ranked team can beat the No. 2 Bruins if it does everything right.
No. 11 San Francisco plays unranked Cal-State Fullerton in the second game of the West doubleheader at University Arena, better known as "The Pit."
Arkansas, 29.3, easily got by Weber State, but UCLA needed a late charge to upend Kansas.
"I think UCLA has generally been regarded as having the best basketball program in the country in the last decade," Sutton said. "Any team that beats them in the playoff should have a psychological edge over the rest of the field."
Sutton added that Kansas was successful running with UCLA, but he doesn't feel his team is equipped to play that kind of game.
"The tempo will be the biggest key," Sutton said. "We'd rather see a game in the 60s or low 70s. It is not to our advantage if the score gets higher. Our ball club has to be very disciplined and understand that we must put them (the Bruins) on defense for as long as possible. We just can't get as long as possible. We just can't get into a ping pong match with them."
In an attempt to show UCLA's fast break, Sutton said he may send two men back on defense every time the Razorbacks take a shot. He did he knows that will be giving up something on the boards, "But you've got to give up something somewhere," he said.
Both teams are guard oriented, but UCLA has 6-foot-9 All-America David Greenwood at forward, giving it a big advantage inside.
The Arkansas guards, Ron Brewer and Sidney Moncrief, both 6-4, prefer to post their men and beat them with their shots.
UCLA's Roy Hamilton and Raymond Townsend, at 6-2 and 6-3, respectively, aren't nearly as strong as Brewer and Moncrief and rely mainly on their quickness, outside shooting and ball handling.
Arkansas doesn't press much and doesn't handle a press well. UCLA does both well.
Both teams are also excellent shooting teams, but for different reasons. Arkansas led the nation in field-goal percentage for the second straight season - because the Razorbacks don't take bad shots and are good shooters from the 15-20-foot range.
UCLA is shooting 52 percent, a school record, and is good at outside shooting, too, but the Bruins convert many layups and other inside shots because they are such a fast-breaking team.
San Fancisco Coach Bob Gaillara isn't taking upstart Fullerton lightly probably what New Mexico did in the first round of the tournament and is the reason the Lobos will be watching tonight's restivities instead of playing on their home floor, where they were 16-1 this season.
Fullerton is well-disciplined and follows Coach Bob Dye's instructions. The Titans are 22-8 and have won seven in a row, but they are not big aren't exceptionally quick and aren't particularly outstanding on defense.
Their best player is 6-6 Greg Bunch with a 15.7 average.Their center Steve Shaw, is only 6-8 and the other starters are 6-4, 6-2 and 6-0.
The Titans play a 3-2 or a 2-3 zone virtually all the time.
North Carolina could not control San Francisco's 7-foot Bill Cartwright in their first-round game last week and it is doubtful Fullerton will be able to cope.