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Thursday, November 10, 2016
OCR: UCLA men's basketball preview: 5 games to watch
NOV 8, 2016 | CLAY FOWLER | O.C. REGISTER | ARTICLE LINK
With UCLA ranked No. 16 in the AP preseason poll, here are five Bruins games to watch this season:
• Dec. 3 at Kentucky: There will be plenty of NBA scouts in attendance for UCLA’s first game on the national stage. Given the parade of one-and-done players through the Kentucky program, Lonzo Ball will just be one of many freshmen receiving a hard look. This game against the Wildcats – ranked No. 2 in the AP preseason poll – marks the first trip in UCLA history to Rupp Arena, but there is a recent history between the teams. UCLA knocked off then-No. 1 Kentucky last season at Pauley Pavilion. In 2014, however, Kentucky scored the first 24 points of an eventual 39-point win in Chicago, an embarrassing performance during which UCLA scored just seven first-half points.
• Jan. 5 vs. Cal: The pressure is on No. 5 Oregon when UCLA opens Pac-12 play in Eugene, Ore., but the roles will be reversed in the Bruins’ first conference game at home. The Golden Bears, who finished tied for third in the Pac-12 last season, narrowly missed a spot in the preseason top 25. Cal combines with Oregon to form a difficult slate early in conference play. Preseason AP All-American power forward Ivan Rabb creates a difficult matchup inside for the Bruins.
• Jan. 25 at USC: It’s not just that the Trojans’ program is on the rise or that USC is a bitter crosstown rival. This is the first time UCLA will face USC after losing three games to the Trojans last season, including a season-ending, 24-point defeat in the Pac-12 tournament. Having lost three players to transfer since the end of last season, USC is a vastly different team than the one that gave the Bruins fits a year ago.
• Feb. 9 vs. Oregon: Given that this game is at Pauley Pavilion and it’s three months into the season, UCLA has a better shot at bringing down one of the best teams in college basketball. We will have a good sense at this point as to whether the Bruins’ freshmen are of the caliber that could help the team to conference title contention, but knocking off Oregon at least once seems a must if UCLA is to compete for a conference championship.
• Feb. 25 at Arizona: The Wildcats are ranked No. 10 in the AP preseason poll. A game between the teams picked to finish second and third in the Pac-12 will undoubtedly have a significant impact on the conference standings. Only two Pac-12 games remain after this one, which also feature two of the top 5 recruiting hauls from the class of 2016.