BN Roundup: Ben Ball Game Day News & Other Notes

Before getting to notes on tomorrow’s game let’s go through some quick non game related notes to start this Friday am.

Let's start with hoops.

Don’t forget Ben Ball warriors are playing in their second exhibition game tonight before starting the regular season next week. They are taking on the Biola Eagles tonight at 7:00 pm PST. The folks at Bruin Basketball Report have a quick preview:

The Biola Eagles finished 17-14 last season in the Golden State Athletic Conference of NAIA Division I, the same conference as Cal Baptist. Biola is located just down south in La Mirada, California.

The Eagles return three solid senior starters from last year's team.

Forward Rocky Hampton (Sr, 6'9) is the top returning scorer and rebounder. He averaged 12.4 points and 8.2 rebounds. Guards Marlon King (Sr, 5'9) and Danny Campbell (Sr, 6'4) form a formidable duo in the back court.

It will be the first game of the season for Biola.

Apparently the Eagles are fired up to play UCLA:

The Eagles will face the Bruins tonight at Pauley Pavilion, and Biola coach Dave Holmquist said his players are not only ready, but looking forward to the opportunity.

"It will be exciting for them, something to remember, playing UCLA in Pauley Pavilion," Holmquist said Thursday. "The chance to play against one of the best teams in the country in that arena will be a great experience for our players."

The differences in the programs are obvious. So how does Holmquist plan to approach the game?

"We've got to emphasize blocking off (the boards) and try to keep them from getting those second and third shots off rebounds," he said. "We have to take care of the ball and not make turnovers that would allow them to turn the game into a track meet. You have to figure on making turnovers against a team like that, but we have to try to keep the number down."

The Eagles will have returning point guard Marlon King, who Holmquist said "is a very good ball-handler and plays very hard. He's not intimidated by teams or players of UCLA's caliber."

You can watch the game online. For more details go here.

Staying with Ben Ball, SI.com's Seth Davis attended UCLA's open practice few days ago and penned these observations on Ben Ball warriors. He thinks JH right now is UCLA's "best player":

Howland could have recruited Holiday alone, and he would have still had one of the top 10 freshman classes in the nation. Based on what I saw of him both in high school and during practice last week, I can say with high confidence that Holiday is this team's best player. Right now. That doesn't mean that he's as prepared to help the team win as, say, Darren Collison, the 6-foot senior point guard who is a preseason All-America, but in terms of pure talent and pro potential, Holiday is the best UCLA has to offer.

Holiday is not especially big (he's listed at 6-3, 180) and he is not a freak athlete, but just about everything he threw up during practice went in. He is that rare player who is both a shooter and a scorer. He drills long threes and converts all kinds of pull-ups and floaters. He is more of a two guard than a point, but he can still create buckets for his teammates. Howland told me Holiday is as good with his left (off) hand as any guard he's ever seen. His timing and toughness are so good that Howland wants Holiday to crash the offensive glass instead of shuffling back on defense. Holiday will start from Day 1, he'll have various sets and plays that are designed to get him to score, and I predict if he stays healthy he will have the option of being a first-round draft pick next year.

and JK is the most improved:

Keefe. Howland wanted to redshirt Keefe after he underwent shoulder surgery last summer, but the team was beset with so many other injuries that the coach had to reverse his decision mid-season. It took Keefe, a 6-8 junior forward who was a McDonald's All-American in high school, a while to get into the rotation, but he showed how much potential he has when he had 18 points and 12 rebounds in the Bruins' win over Western Kentucky in the Sweet 16. Keefe has had problems putting on weight, and during the off-season he found out why: He burns as many calories sitting on a couch as most people do while they work out. That will come in handy when he gets to be my age, but in the meantime, Keefe has worked with a strength coach and a nutritionist (who told him to eat every two hours) and as a result added 15 pounds. He showed impressive shooting range during practice. I say he's headed for a big year.

Read rest of Seth's takes here.

We will put up an open thread for tonight's Ben Ball exhibition right before the tip off for those who want to follow and discuss the action tonight.

Now here is a note concerning both our basketball and football program. We have had lot of discussion here over the years about the unending message board flame wars between UCLA and California fans about UCLA’s athletic programs allegedly having higher entrance requirement compared to Berkeley’s. From my pov, I have always been somewhat skeptical of those claims since I had not seen any hard data. Well for the first time we have some data and it comes courtesy of Jon Wilner from the San Jose Mercury News:

*** Football

Cal average GPA: 2.93
UCLA average GPA: 3.15

Cal average SAT: 984
UCLA average SAT: 990

As you can see, the SATs are basically the same, but UCLA’s average GPA is 8-10 percent higher.

What has always struck me about these figures — and the differential in men’s basketball is even greater (see below) — isn’t the raw numbers but the relative numbers.

Shouldn’t the flagship school of the UC be at least as tough, if not tougher, than its little sister?

*** Men’s basketball

Cal average GPA: 2.60
UCLA average GPA: 2.91

Cal average SAT: 896
UCLA average SAT: 935

Now here is the caveat. Per Wilner’s own admission those numbers "are four-year averages for players who were in school in the late-90s through mid-00s." So they don’t represent the most up to date data. Still I think those numbers give some support to the claims that we have heard from sources close to UCLA athletics’ administrators and coaches about our program having to deal with higher standards.

First, I don’t think Cal fans need to get upset over this. I don’t believe these numbers in any way diminish Berkeley. They will always be an elite academic institution no matter what these entry requirements are. They have no reason to have a chip on their shoulder about these numbers just like we have no reason to defend our academics.

The issue to me here is really why can’t the UCLA Administration give our coaches in both basketball and football program some flexibility that allows them to recruit players who would also get into Berkeley? I don’t think bringing in a kid with a slightly lower GPA in any way diminish the academic credibility of our university, if that kid totally commits himself to be a student athlete just like the other outstanding ones we have at UCLA. For us to build a strong football program, I do believe the UCLA administration needs to give CRN and his staff a little more flexibility (if these data points have remained consistent in last few years) in recruiting.

Again, from what we have heard over the years UCLA football coaches are recruiting with arms tied behind their back and these numbers give some support to those claims. From what we have heard the Murphy Hall wants UCLA to become more like Northwester and Duke than Michigan & Texas. I think that’s a little silly. Having strong football programs at places like Texas, Michigan (although they are struggling through their rebuilding season, no doubt they will come back), and Notre Dame have done nothing to diminish the academic reputation those schools have across the country. Sure they are not Ivies or Stanford, but who cares.  Similarly, I think slightly lowering the GPA threshold for their athletes have done nothing to diminish the academic reputation of schools like Berkeley. If it is working for Berkeley, it should certainly work for UCLA.

Anyway, just something to think about. Football notes coming up.

GO BRUINS.

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