UCLA’s basketball squad got off to a hell of a start with an 86-59 win over the Indiana State Sycamores last Friday. These Bruins might’ve lost that game last year — since they lost last year’s opener to Loyola Marymount by a disgusting margin — and are now 1-0 to start the season.
Another tune-up awaits, though, with the Big West’s 6th-best team in 2011-12 in the UC-Irvine Anteaters.
And yes, we said “the Big West’s 6th-best team” tongue-in-cheek.
Because, if we’re being honest, UCI isn’t exactly a midmajor powerhouse. They aren’t the team that you’d expect to hang with the best of the nation despite perennial underdog status.
They earned that status for a reason; the Anteaters have not broken .500 in their program’s history and, most recently, were 12-20 in 2011-12.
And among those 20 losses sat a 89-60 loss to a then-middling (and highly disappointing) UCLA basketball squad.
With Josh Smith the centerpiece of the offense with all 15 minutes they could get out of him; with the Wear Twins being the most consistent players on the squad; and with those three players being the most talented UCLA players in 2011-12.
That’s changed, thankfully, but UC Irvine hasn’t much, meaning the tune-up game might be more reminiscent of a circus act than anything.
Sure, Irvine returns its two leading scorers from a year ago — in guards Daman Starring and Mike Wilder, both of whom averaged 11.5 points a contest — but that’s about as good as it gets for these Anteaters talent-wise.
Defensively? It gets worse for UCI. Allowing 72.2 points a game last season is a bit of a joke, and considering UCLA’s offense looks to be more advantageous towards its talent (with Jordan Adams and Travis Wear looking to be the two most consistent scorers on the court), it’ll be surprising if the Bruins don’t approach — if not, totally obliterate — last season’s 89-point game against Irvine.
Of course, UCLA shouldn’t sleep on a team that’s returning nearly all its starters from last year’s squad, and that UCI team was relatively young, with six of the 11 players seeing minutes being freshmen.
And sure, perhaps the Wear twins’ inability to play on the court at the same time is as maddening as it has been for the past year, and maybe Jordan Adams falls asleep and has an off-night shooting-wise. But even with that, UCLA shouldn’t have issues utilizing Kyle Anderson’s versatility or rotating in and out Tony Parker for Josh Smith to make life difficult for the Anteaters inside — a team that is incredibly thin down low.
UCLA should come away with an easy win, although it might not be a good idea to let the Anteaters hang around. An upset would be dramatically infuriating for UCLA fans.