The 2019 UCLA basketball non-conference schedule was released last week, which drew some ire from Bruins fans as it was perceived as “weak.” With that in mind, Go Joe Bruin made a list of teams head coach Mick Cronin might want to schedule in the future.
Personally, I do not think UCLA basketball‘s non-conference schedule is a walk in the park, but I will admit that they have a lot of cupcakes to nibble on. The Bruins have also balanced that out with a few marquee games against the likes of UNLV, Notre Dame and North Carolina (and whoever else they manage to draw in the Maui Invitational).
So it might be a bit weak, but it is a good place to start in Year 1 of the Mick Cronin era. With that in mind, I came up with a list of five programs that the Bruins should schedule in the future which would not only improve the overall competition but would also bring intrigue from the college basketball world.
North Carolina State Wolfpack
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UCLA is already engaged in a game with North Carolina every three years in the CBS Sports Classic and Duke doesn’t like a challenge, so the only remaining team from Tobacco Road is North Carolina State. The Wolfpack are a well-coached team, so much that their head coach Kevin Keatts was being targeted for the UCLA head-coaching position. The would be a good matchup for both sides as they would get coverage on both coasts and will ensure a fantastic battle in consecutive seasons.
I know most of you will hate this suggestion, but what better way can the Bruins assuage the pain of the past than by taking down the one team that has been a thorn in UCLA’s side for over a decade? By beating that exact team. The Gators might not be where they were once at, but they are still a formidable opponent, that alone makes this a good matchup. But UCLA fans want revenge and a chance for two wins in a home-and-home can help alleviate the pain we have suffered at the hands of the Gators.
UCLA and Gonzaga have had a friendly rivalry going for the past two decades. As two of the premier college basketball programs in the nation, it makes sense to set these two teams up with another home-and-home series. Not only will it give those on the East Coast some quality West Coast basketball to watch, but it will give the Bruins a team to sharpen their iron on.
If UCLA wants to prove themselves, might as well go after the big dogs, er, cats as it were. Villanova has won two out of the last four National Championships, and they do not look like they are falling off anytime soon. They have emerged as a powerhouse lately, and if UCLA wants to get back in that conversation, they not only have to collect wins, they have to collect wins against good teams. Plus, this home-and-home series will give the Bruins a lot of East Coast exposure, especially in the Northeast.
After all that happened during the coaching search, this matchup would draw the interest of every single college basketball fan on the planet. The story went that John Calipari was coming to UCLA, things were not agreed-upon on both sides and after UK gave him a lifetime contract, Cal would remain n Lexington.
All of this was the beginning of a coaching search that would end with Mick Cronin coming to Westwood. Not that any of this is Cronin’s fault, but it became a bit of a thing between UCLA and Kentucky fans in the aftermath. So why not set the record straight, and pit both teams against each other?
I mean, how hard can it be to get a win against Calipari? He lost to Steve Alford in three out of four games over the last five years, so it can’t be that hard.