It has just been announced that the UCLA basketball team will take part in the stacked Las Vegas Invitational during the non-conference portion of the 2018-19 season.
If UCLA basketball head coach Steve Alford wants to prep his team for the post-season, playing good, solid competition in the non-conference season is the way to go.
Next season, despite the non-conference schedule not yet being finalized, the Bruins will play some tough competition before Pac-12 play. UCLA begins a home-and-home series at Pauley Pavilion with Notre Dame, play the second half of a home-and-home at Cincinnati and will take on Ohio State in the CBS Sports Classic in Chicago.
Things have been knocked up another notch as the Bruins have been invited to play in the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational at the Orleans Arena on Thursday, November 22 (Thanksgiving Day) and Friday, November 23. Joining UCLA in Vegas will be Michigan State, North Carolina and Texas, all of which made the 2018 NCAA Tournament.
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If Alford wants to toughen up this team, playing against this level of competition is the way to go.
This last year, the Bruins finished with an underwhelming 21-12 record and a NCAA Tournament “play-in” game exit. Though the Bruins were short-handed, they still had some highlight moments like beating Arizona in Tucson, sweeping USC and beating Sweet 16 team Kentucky.
Things are looking up for next season as UCLA gets to flex their roster muscles with 13 players potentially available. Jaylen Hands and Kris Wilkes have declared for the draft, though they will not hire an agent, leaving open the possibility for a return, which seems likely.
Along with them, Prince Ali, Chris Smith and Alex Olesinski return to give the Bruins some experience. This also includes six in-coming freshmen that make up the #3 recruiting class in the nation, so talent will not be hard to come by in Westwood next season.
With all of this talent, UCLA should have one of the better rosters in the country next season, so it is only appropriate that they take on some of the best teams in the country, especially if they want to finish better than they did during the 2017-18 season.