Tonight UCLA plays its first official game of the year, against Loyola Marymount University at 7:30 on FS West. This is the first game of the Bruin road show:
UCLA will play most of its home games this season at the Sports Arena - in the shadow of USC - while Pauley Pavilion undergoes a $136-million makeover intended to transform it into one of the top facilities in the country.
The players, well they are not that happy about it.
"We really don't have any home games this season," sophomore forward David Wear said. . . .
"I don't like it, to be honest," Smith said. "It's terrible. When we walked in, I felt like we were on the set for a 'Hoosiers' movie or something, like, in the 1980s. You look up and it's like Miller Lite [signs] and, like, old. You're like, 'Oh, wow. This is what we're calling home?'"
I think the season previews are overlooking how this could effect UCLA. It helps especially young bench players to have the crowd behind them. Ben Howland is doing his part and next week he will be going to tour frats and sororities to generate interest and get more students to the game. CBH is also trying to put a positive spin on things.
As Coach Ben Howland likes to point out, it worked for John Wooden. The legendary coach won his first two national titles while the Bruins played at the Sports Arena from 1959-65 before moving into Pauley Pavilion.
But that is going to be an obstacle for the season. Fortunately, LMU tonight should not be much of an obstacle.
LMU would have had an uphill battle regardless of where the Bruins were playing them but the game is made even tougher because their star player is out tonight:
The Lions (11-21, 2-12 West Coast) return four starters - including preseason all-WCC selection Drew Viney, who led the team with averages of 17.2 points and 6.6 rebounds. Viney, however, is expected to miss all of November after undergoing surgery on his left foot.
With Viney sidelined, Loyola Marymount will likely look to redshirt junior Jarred DuBois and Ashley Hamilton to pick up the pace. DuBois and Hamilton scored a combined 36 points during a 94-49 exhibition victory over LaVerne on Nov. 1.
UCLA has taken 12 straight meetings in this series and holds a 15-2 advantage against the Lions.
Their backcourt is their strength, with PG Anthony Ireland (who does not shoot particularly well) being the leading returning scorer and Jarred Dubois returning from injury last year to be a three point threat from the shooting guard position. It will be interesting to see how Lamb and Powell do matching up with him.
The Lions played one exhibition this preseason, defeating LaVerne, 94-49, on Nov. 1. The Lions' defense shutdown LaVerne, holding them to just 27 percent shooting from the field and 20.7 percent from the three-point line. On offense the Lions finished hitting 55.9 percent from the floor and 41.2 percent from long distance. Redshirt junior Jarred DuBois, who missed all but five games in serving a medical redshirt in 2010-11, led the Lions with 19 points[in 19 minutes], hitting 7-for-11 from the field.
LMU win was over a division three team and their coach Max Good is realistic:
"Again, we played well as a group," said Good. "We will need every ounce of that effort and more when we open the season against UCLA. But I was happy with how we played together as a team."
While I think UCLA probably has an advantage at every position, as with much of the season, it may be most pronounced in the front court. Quite frankly there is no way LMU's front court should be able to stop UCLA. They go 6'6", 6'7" and 6'8" but none are overly impressive. (I think the front cout of CSSB may be better.)
For the rest of the team, the questions will be the same as USSB game with added injury concerns. How will Tyler Lamb, David Wear, De'End Parker, and Norman Powell take advantage of the opportunities given them considering teams will have to focus on defense on our bigs? Tonight, Reeves ankle may bother him and be limited and the Bruins are without Jerime Anderson (last game of suspension) and Anthony Stover (injury).
One last note on the home court. LMU may be an easier game than CSSB. While I at first laughed at Tracy Murray's comments about the CSSB game being a playoff atmosphere, for CSSB it was. If CSSB won that game, it would have been the biggest win in their history. It was a pseudo-home game for them with many of their fans in attendance.
Tonight will be more of a home game and there better be more Bruins (including students) then LMU fans. While the players don't need that for LMU, going forward this year they will need the fans to come to the Sports Arena.