With UCLA Basketball set with their non-conference march-ups for the 2016-17 season, we look at how the Bruins will do in their 13-game schedule.
The UCLA Basketball team has a plan. Enter the non-conference portion of their schedule with guns a-blazin’ against several quality opponents and a few cupcakes and hope they do not burn out by the time Pac-12 play starts. Simple.
In fact, that seems to have been the plan for Head Coach Steve Alford all along. Ever since the four-year coach got to Westwood, he has made it a priority to schedule tough opponents in the non-conference.
This coming year is no different as we saw the other day when the UCLA Basketball team released their non-conference schedule. The Bruins are guaranteed to play three teams from Power 5 conferences, Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio State, which does not include the Wooden Legacy tournament which has three more Power 5 teams that UCLA could potentially compete against. Here is the full non-conference schedule:
Fri, Nov 11 vs Pacific
Sun, Nov 13 vs Cal State Northridge
Thu, Nov 17 vs San Diego
Sun, Nov 20 vs Long Beach State
Nov 24, 25, 27 at Wooden Legacy at Fullerton and Anaheim
Wed, Nov 30 vs UC Riverside
Sat, Dec 3 at Kentucky
Sat, Dec 10 vs Michigan
Wed, Dec 14 vs UC Santa Barbara
Sat, Dec 17 vs Ohio State (CBS Sports Classic in Las Vegas)
Wed, Dec 21 vs Western Michigan
So let us look at this thing closely. Immediately my eyes look to the first four games. Cupcakes. Sort of. Though the Bruins could probably run through Pacific, CSUN and San Diego, they had a lot of trouble with LBSU last season and I do not doubt the 49ers will lay down against UCLA.
Although, last season the UCLA Basketball team did not have Lonzo Ball running the point. With Ball and power forward T.J. Leaf joining veteran core players center Thomas Welsh and guards Isaac Hamilton and Bryce Alford, UCLA should be much improved in every facet of their game. At this point, there is no doubt they should be 4-0.
Then we have the Wooden Legacy which includes Dayton, Nebraska, New Mexico, Portland, Texas A&M, Virginia Tech and Cal State Northridge. This three game tournament over the Thanksgiving weekend should test the Bruins. Though I believe their new found talent will take them far, they will not immediately patch up the Bruin’s problems from last season. I can see UCLA coming out of this weekend 2-1, with an overall record of 6-1.
Then comes UC Riverside. 7-1.
Then we have a huge match-up on December 3 against Kentucky. UCLA will be playing at Rupp Arena for the first time ever. Though the Bruins handed the Wildcats a ten-point loss last December, expect some revenge from caliper and Co. 7-2.
A week after that, the Bruins host the Michigan Wolverines. They are an above average team, but they are not great. I can see UCLA enacting some revenge of their own after losing at Kentucky. 8-2.
Then there is UCSB, 9-2.
The last big contest for the UCLA Basketball team will be against Ohio State, who is in a similar situation with Michigan. They are a good B1G team, but one that this youthful Bruin squad could easily handle. 10-2.
Then the non-conference ends with another punching bag as the Bruins should get some good momentum against Western Michigan.
With that, I expect the UCLA Basketball team to enter conference play with an overall record of 11-2.
By this point in the season, UCLA should have their chemistry set and their rotations in order and be ready for the Pac-12 season. Hopefully with their momentum and talent, they do better than 6-12 in conference. But that is an article for another time.