By Dave Thomas

Name: Norman Powell
University: UCLA
Year: Senior
Height: 6′ 4″
Weight: 215 lbs.
Hometown: San Diego, CA.
Position: Guard

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Playing men’s basketball at UCLA is much like putting on a football uniform at Alabama or Ohio State. With such opportunities, the expectation level is through the roof. If you fail to live up to the hype at such institutions, your collegiate career rightly or wrongly can be crushed in a season or two. Live up to the hype, however, and you could be looked at as one of the best to ever play the game at your respective school.

For one Norman Powell, the expectation levels were set high when the senior guard first took the floor at Pauley Pavilion, but one gets the feeling that this San Diego native relished that opportunity.

As the Pac-12 Tournament gets set to kick off this week at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Nevada, Powell and the Bruins (UCLA is the fourth-seed, first-round bye) are hoping to find a little March Madness in their steps, giving them the chance to dance just a little bit longer than their counterparts.

UCLA On The National Bubble

When one looks back on the regular season for Powell and the Bruins, it is all but a given that UCLA and its fans are thinking of what could have been, especially as it relates to Pac-12 play (11-7 record).

There are a number of losses, most notably to Colorado (62-56), Cal (64-62) and Arizona State (68-66), that UCLA would love to have back. For the record, UCLA did split a pair of those series, topping Colorado and Cal in their other meetings

Throw in blowout losses to North Carolina (78-56), top-ranked and unbeaten Kentucky (83-44), and Oregon (82-64), and you can see where the Bruins must make a deep and noticeable run in the conference tourney to likely punch their ticket to March Madness.

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On the flip side, UCLA has some nice wins to its credit, giving Powell and Co. a reason to think positive.

A number of those wins directly correlate to the play of Powell, currently leading the team with 16.3 points per game and 1.9 steals per game, while chipping in with 4.7 rebounds per game and 2.0 assists each game.

Growth Seen Over Time

For Powell, his rise to leadership on the team has been a year-by-year process.

After averaging in under double digits for points per game his first two seasons in Westwood, he tallied 11.4 ppg in 37 games during his junior campaign.

This season, Powell, who led his high school team in San Diego to a state crown, has become the man under the microscope. He has taken the leadership role on a team which can play with the best of them at anytime or struggle with some of the mediocre ones at other times.

Powell, who had a career-high 28 points in a win over Washington State earlier in March, has been honored three times this season as the Pac-12 Player of the Week.

For Norman Powell and the UCLA Bruins, the road to March Madness starts this week, a week they hope ultimately culminates with a Pac-12 title.

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Dave Thomas has been covering the sports world since his first job as a sports editor for a weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania back in 1989. He has covered a Super Bowl, college bowl games, MLB, NBA and more. His work can be found on Examiner.com.