The college basketball gods blessed us with this one. We’re getting UCLA and North Carolina in the Sweet 16, a meeting of two blue-blood programs that have combined for more than 100 NCAA Tournament appearances, 39 Final Fours (20 for UNC, 19 for UCLA), and 17 national championships (including the 1968 title UCLA won over UNC).

It’s the battle of the brands.

But don’t let that distract from the fact these are also equally strong teams in the moment. UCLA coach Mick Cronin joked after beating Saint Mary’s that they watched the North Carolina-Baylor game during walkthroughs on Saturday and saw Carolina up more than 20 and wondered who the real No. 1 seed was.

“You can’t play much better than Carolina’s playing,” Cronin said.

The Bruins are playing pretty well right now themselves.

Here are 10 things worth knowing about this UCLA squad.

1. How they got here

A 4-vs.-13 matchup in the opening round of the tournament brought Akron to the table. On paper, UCLA had a length advantage on the perimeter that seemed like it would play a pretty key role in allowing the Bruins to hunt mismatches and hold their own defensively.

The defensive piece held true — though big man Cody Riley was beaten pretty soundly by Akron post Enrique Freeman (14 points, 10 boards, 5-6 shooting) — but the offense was a nightmare. Akron used energy and activity to clog up the lane and get into passing lanes. UCLA had 10 paint points after living at the basket at the Pac-12 Tournament.

The Bruins shot 35% yet still managed to win it, 57-53. They closed the game outscoring Akron 15-4 over the final 5:16. Jules Bernard had a pair of key triples down the stretch. Tyger Campbell scored eight straight to give UCLA the lead for good.

Saint Mary’s in the second round chose to wall up and guard UCLA more 1-on-1 in the post. In the first half of that game, forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. absolutely ate up the Gaels’ defense. He had 15 points before the break on 6-of-10 shooting. The counter for the Gaels in the second half was to start trapping Jaquez in the post, so UCLA started running flare screens for its wings — Bernard and Johnny Juzang — along the baseline to get them rolling.

The Bruins were once again strong defensively, making things a grind in the halfcourt for Saint Mary’s. They won 72-56.

2. Jaime Jaquez Jr. is the star, but he’s hurt

How much remains to be seen. And what his status is for Friday’s Sweet 16 game will probably be determined as close to tip-off as possible.

Jaquez left UCLA’s second-round game with less than 7 minutes remaining after turning his ankle. He did not return to the game, though he did eventually come back to the bench with his foot wrapped in ice.

“Trust me, if he can walk, he’ll play,” Cronin said after the game. “Most guys that had what he has would have sat the rest of the season out. He’s had so many sprained ankles, I don’t know how much you can sprain it anymore. We’ll see. Fortunate we’ve got until next Friday.”

Jaquez has appeared in 33 games this season for the Bruins, but he has dealt with nagging ankle issues all throughout the year. Still, he has managed 30 minutes a night and 14 points a game.

As the season wound down and Juzang dealt with his injury, Jaquez became the fulcrum of the offensive attack. The 6-7 forward is sturdy and just as comfortable with his back to the basket as he is taking a guy off the dribble. Jaquez likes to get it on the left side of the hoop and turn baseline for a mid-range fallaway; it’s a shot he knocks down with a pretty good degree of consistency. He’s also a good finisher in transition.

Jaquez has scored at least 10 points in 10 straight games. Since a loss to Oregon on Feb. 24, he has averaged 20.5 points in eight games and shot north of 50% from the field five times.

3. Tyger Campbell is going to get to his spots

The short guy (I can say this as a short guy) with the big game on the floor. Campbell is UCLA’s point guard and he’s one of the best at the high-major level. He’s got a tremendous rapport with Cronin, something that’s actually a wonderful little subplot to watch throughout games as they meet at halfcourt during dead-ball stoppages to discuss adjustments and what they’re seeing — you see the neurons of the UCLA offensive brain firing in real-time.

Campbell is really smart with the ball. If he gets sped up, it’s because he’s forcing the issue, not because the defense is doing something to make him uncomfortable. So far this tournament Campbell has 32 points, 9 assists and only 3 turnovers. He’s going to get to his spots, and if you cede the mid-range jumper, he’s going to hit it more often than not. Not a score-first guard, but he’s a dangerous shot-maker who has come up big when UCLA has been without guys at various points this year.

4. Good luck forcing turnovers

UCLA doesn’t give the ball away. It’s to the point where 8 turnovers against Akron were cause for consternation. The Bruins had 6 against Saint Mary’s. In a win over USC to close out the regular season, they had only 1. They’ve only had double-digit turnovers in 11 of their 34 games this season and only St. Thomas, Wisconsin and Iowa have a lower turnover percentage this year.

5. Tempo

The Bruins play at an adjusted tempo that ranks 271st in the country, per KenPom. They can go both ways, though. The Bruins are exceptional on defense when they’re healthy and locked in, and they use their length well to create transition opportunities. But, you’ll often see Campbell walk the ball up the court and set the Bruins up into something. Akron got 56 possessions. Saint Mary’s got 53. If the Bruins are without Jaquez, I’d bet they try and keep this as low-possession as possible.

6. Excellent length on the perimeter

Johnny Juzang, Jules Bernard and Jaime Jaquez all stand at 6-7. Cody Riley, the team’s starting center, is 6-9 and has his moments guarding the pick-and-roll. But that trio in the middle of the lineup gives Cronin some flexibility to mix different defensive coverages. UCLA isn’t going to throw one thing at every team and then adjust at halftime. They’re a game-plan-specific defense, and a big part of why is the length on the wing. UCLA can also bring All-Pac-12 Defensive Team guard Jaylen Clark off the bench (6-5) and freshman Peyton Watson (6-8), who has the athleticism to stick with guards and the shot-blocking instincts to give some rim protection. The adjustment against Akron was to ditch the plodding big and play super small and it worked quite well.

7. Multiple options on offense

UCLA can get a little iso-heavy at times, but that’s a risk you run when you have an abundance of creators. Campbell, Juzang, Jaquez and Bernard can all create for themselves. They’re guys you can throw it to at the end of the shot clock, clear out, and let them go to work. That’s a luxury this time of the year. As we’ve seen, Bernard and Juzang are pretty lethal running off-ball and around screens, but either can get themselves going in a pinch.

8. Juzang’s health

If Jaquez is unavailable, the likely next man up would either be Clark or Watson. But the guy who would need to step up would be Juzang.

When UCLA made its run to the Final Four last season, Juzang led the way. In 6 NCAA Tournament games last year, Juzang scored 23, 27, 17, 13, 28 and 29 points. So far this season, Juzang has scored 9 points and 14 points in the Bruins’ 2 tournament games.

He was hot earlier this season. When UCLA really got rolling in mid-January, Juzang was on absolute fire, reaching 20 points 6 times over an 8-game span through the end of January and into February. An ankle injury at the end of February forced him to miss one game, and he hasn’t quite looked back to his old self since.

In the 6 games since his return to the floor, he has averaged 10.5 a game while shooting 39% from the field. Against the Gaels, Juzang looked closer to what we’ve come to expect from him than at any point since the injury. He said after the game he’s starting to feel better. He’s got a spurt ability to his game when fully healthy, and UCLA’s halfcourt offense could use that.

9. A closing stat

This is pretty esoteric, but it’s illustrative. UCLA is 21-0 this season when holding its opponent to 65 points or less. It is 6-7 when teams score more than 65 points, including 1-5 when teams reach 70. UNC averages 78.5 points per game. In 5 of their 9 losses, the Heels failed to reach 70.

10. Matchup history

UNC leads the overall series 10-3, including regular-season victories in 2018-19 and 2019-20. UCLA and North Carolina have only played twice in the NCAA Tournament. This will be their first NCAA Tournament meeting since 1989, when UNC beat the Bruins 88-81 in the second round. The only other meeting came in 1968, when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar poured in 34 points and UCLA beat the Tar Heels 78-55 to win the national championship.