LOS ANGELES (AP)It’s finally here, my chance to play in March Madness.

I grew up a huge college basketball fan, watching the NCAA Tournament and college games all the time. I used to do NCAA pools when I was younger and did pretty well. I took them seriously and made my brackets based off what I had seen throughout the season. I admit I did pretty well and usually ended up on the winning side of things.

While I can’t do brackets pools anymore, I still am watching the men’s games. My roommates and I cheered on the men’s team from our dorm room the other night. Gabriela’s (Jaquez) brother plays on the men’s team and we were screaming at the TV rooting them on.

Now it’s our turn to play in March Madness and it’s an awesome feeling. I’m excited to play in front of our home fans and it should be a great atmosphere.

It’s not the easiest thing having the last game of the first round as I’ll be hyped up from watching the games earlier day, but it’s cool that we close out the first round of the tournament.

One of the biggest reasons I came across the country to UCLA was to take a team that hasn’t been to the Final Four and a championship to new heights. I wanted to come to a place where we could compete in March Madness every year and make deep runs in the tournament.

I didn’t expect college basketball to be easy coming in and it’s been a little bit harder than I had thought as a freshmen. There have been ups and downs and growing pains to go through and you have to get used to playing at this level. In high school and in AAU there was smooth sailing for the most part. I’ve faced new adversities this year that I hadn’t felt before, but also I think that has been the most fun I’ve had in my career so far.

On the court we’ve been really locked in this week getting ready for the game. I’ve noticed everyone is paying a lot more attention to details and practices have been really competitive this week. It’s the best week we’ve had all season.

It’s not all basketball, though, right now. UCLA is on the quarter system and we’re actually in final exams. I have a bunch of papers and other things to turn in over the next few days. Luckily I have no in person exams, but still have a lot of work to do.

Despite it being the most exciting time of year on the court, our professors still hold us to the high standards they should off the court. Shout out to my English professor who is a big fan of the team. He’s come to a few of our game so far this season and hopefully he and the entire class will show up Saturday for the opener.

The first 100 students get in free, so I’m hoping that a lot of them show up.

Go Bruins!

UCLA freshman Kiki Rice is checking in periodically during the NCAA Tournament. She helped the Bruins earn a four-seed.

AP March Madness coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25