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UCLA basketball: Are dancing days here again for Bruins?

January 24, 2011 |  1:33 pm

March Madness is still two months away, but it's always fun to look at early NCAA tournament projections.

Especially if you're a UCLA fan.

The Bruins finally moved into the projected bracket of ESPN's Joe Lunardi on Monday in the wake of a four-game winning streak that has them tied with Arizona for second place in the Pacific 10 Conference. Lunardi has UCLA seeded 12th and playing fellow No. 12 seed Wichita State in one of the new "First Four" opening-round games to be held March 15-16 in Dayton, Ohio, as part of the expanded 68-team format.

The winner of that game, according to Lunardi, would move on to play fifth-seeded Florida in an East Regional first-round game -- potentially giving the Bruins a chance to knock off the team that defeated them in the national championship game in 2006 and national semifinal in 2007. Of course, the chances of everything playing out like this are about the same as winning a daily Pick Six lottery, but it's fun to daydream, right?

The Bruins are also gaining some momentum in the NCAA's official Rankings Percentage Index figures, moving up to No. 48 after being as low as 182 in some RPI figures before their victory last month over Brigham Young. UCLA could get another significant boost in that department with a triumph over Arizona on Thursday in Tucson. The Wildcats have an RPI of 25.

Arizona, by the way, is projected as a No. 7-seeded team in the NCAA tournament by Lunardi, who also predicts that Washington will be a No. 4-seeded team. No other Pac-10 school is currently projected to make the tournament (sorry, USC).

-- Ben Bolch