In my weekly work with All Buffs, I went in on their game against Kansas this weekend. I completely ignored (but for one sentence) their game tonight against Colorado State and charged right in on the Jayhawk tilt because that’s the game that matters. The Buffaloes have proven they can beat formidable foes (Harvard) and otherwise (Jackson State).
But what about the big boys? How do they stack up against a team with a number next to their name? They had an opening day shot against Baylor and didn’t fare too well. But I appreciated the effort because they dove into the deep end while others stayed in the kiddie pool.
And sure they stepped back into the ankle deep waters for a spell. But now they’re diving right back in which leads me to UCLA’s plunge. The Bruins have been lounging in the shallow waters all the season long. They’ve back-loaded their non-conference slate and I think that’s befitting a program in transition. We’re definitely familiar with the narrative around UCLA and their new coach, so for Alford to have a cake walk into the meat of his first season has been ideal. Considering his first months on the job, with nary a single basket to be made, it was anything but a cake walk. Mix in the motor-mouthed Andy Enfield and UCLA’s 7-0 start has been delightfully under-the-radar (not to mention other coaching related issues in the Los Angeles area).
UCLA, amidst all that, is indeed 7-0, touting an 18th ranking in the AP and 22 in KenPom. And did you realize that freshman Zach LaVine is their second leading scorer? Or that he’s shooting 63% afield and 58% from distance? Or he’s capable of things like this:
Now on the heels of Myles Jack “historically” winning the football Pac-12 offensive and defensive Freshman of the Year awards, I won’t be quick to speak highly of a UCLA freshman. Those jackolades are myles off. But LaVine may have the highest professional ceiling on this UCLA team. His emergence only makes the Bruins better (duh) as they head into the aforementioned, back-loaded non-con schedule.
Upcoming for UCLA with corresponding rankings/ratings:
- UC-Santa Barbara, 12/3 – KenPom: 83, AP: N/A
- @ Mizzou, 12/7 – KenPom: 48, AP: N/A
- Duke, 12/19 (@ MSG) – KenPom: 28, AP: #10
- Alabama, 12/28 – KenPom: 55, AP: N/A
This quad-pack of games isn’t about to blow your mind but it’s certainly better than the previous seven opponents who hold a KenPom average rating of 190.14. This is the month where we’ll really get to learn the most about UCLA and – more importantly – where they’ll get to learn the most about themselves.
Is Tony Parker a foul prone big incapable of staying on the floor? Or is he a defensive game changer, protecting the rim and collecting boards to get scorers LaVine and Jordan Adams into transition? The Wear family. Will Kyle Anderson be a defensive liability as teams become more athletic, more skilled?
And the reason we want these things answered, or at least to have a better picture as to the direction of this team, is because we’ve been teased with their talents and have yet to see them challenged. We love challenges at PacHoops.
Also heading into the thick of it are the Oregon Ducks (@ Ole Miss, Illinois, BYU), kinda Utah (@Boise State, Fresno State, BYU), and Stanford (@ UConn, Michigan).
Yes, we love challenges at PacHoops, who’s going to rise to theirs?