UCLA hoops is now 4-1 on the season after splitting their two games in the Legends Classic, losing to a spirited Georgetown squad and escaping with a win against the lowly Georgia Bulldogs.
The Bruins will try to get back on track against the Cal Poly Mustangs, a 1-2 Big West squad that finished with an 18-15 record in 2011-12, finishing fourth in their respective conference.
Gone from that squad, though — a squad that had its first winning season since 2006-07, and its second in the past decade — are the team’s three leading scorers (David Hanson, Amaurys Fermin and Will Taylor, arguably the squad’s most efficient player and best defender).
Replacing those key players, though, are some talented freshman who have carried the team. Brian Bennett, a 6’8” center from Illinois, is the team’s most important frosh, and has earned just under eight points a game off of 58 percent shooting. Bennett, with his competent play around the basket, will likely be an issue for UCLA big men Travis and David Wear (the latter of which may not be playing).
The Mustangs’ most important player, however, is returning forward Chris Eversley. And while his per-game scoring is a team-best, his shooting leaves something to be desired, chucking the ball at a 41 percent clip. He is the teams’ primary ball-handler and he’s likely the most consistent form of offense the Mustangs will get (despite a mediocre 91.6 points produced per 100 possessions).
Upperclassmen Jamal Johnson and Drake U’u will also prove to be an issue, with their play-making ability, acting as the on-ball guards while on the court, combining for eight assists a contest.
Of course, this squad is still a middling Big West team that is not even projected to sniff a conference title anytime soon, and though they have nice pieces, none of them are world-beaters in any sense of the phrase.
What these Mustangs have going on for them is defense, and even then, allowing an average of 60 points a game to Fresno State, TCU and Northern Colorado isn’t much to be proud of.
UCLA should obliterate this team, and should light this squad up on the offensive side of the ball.
(Much like UCLA should have blown out UC-Irvine, Georgetown and Georgia.)
Because the Mustangs’ best defender (based on points allowed per 100 possessions), Chris Eversley, isn’t a match for none of Jordan Adams, Shabazz Muhammad, or Kyle Anderson. With Shabazz on the floor, this UCLA team has quite a few weapons to choose from on offense and normally the points will come from either Adams or Muhammad, both of whom have already proven to be elite scorers at the college level.
Meanwhile, the size inside for UCLA should be overwhelming (although size hasn’t seemed to stop teams such as Georgia or Georgetown from destroying the Bruins inside), and if Josh Smith and Tony Parker are utilized correctly, the Mustangs will have a hard time controlling the paint, with their tallest player standing at 6’9”, freshman Brian Bennett. Even further, getting points in the paint won’t be easy if the defense Ben Howland employs will see his big men take a stand on the interior, something Parker and Smith have done significantly better with compared to Travis and David Wear.
UCLA should win handily against Cal Poly here, and most likely, they will win.
Of course, UCLA can’t afford to let Cal Poly hang around and the team should work towards identifying what it does well, something this 2012-13 squad has struggled with so far.