I am so excited to start the hoops season today with an exhibition game against a Division II opponent in the Cal State San Bernardino Coyotes, tipping off at 2 p.m. PST. You can watch the game streaming here and comment here in this game thread (there may be a fee for the stream). In order to contain my excitement for what after all is just an exhibition game, I will instead try to write this preview/game thread as if I was a trying to beat UCLA because it the Bruin players that are new to the roster or playing in new roles that UCLA fans should watch today (does anyone really think CSSB can handle Josh Smith in any remotely plausible scenario?). What would I do if I were Cal State San Bernardino? Their website actual leads with "what If" they beat UCLA and Bruin Report Online has a review of the game labeling the Coyotes "a pretty good Division II squad." Regardless, the reality is UCLA will win this game but what should the CSSB coach do to give his team a slim chance?
Their coach, Jeff Oliver, mentions how while this is a home game for UCLA it is actually closer to the Coyotes' campus. So the crowd may be pro-Coyote (a problem UCLA will face again this year when it plays USC at "home"). He mentions how they have been in the Division II tournament 8 of the last 10 years. But really it comes down to the following: the Coyotes cannot stop Smith and Nelson inside so why not try to limit them by packing in a zone and daring the other players to beat you? Also, they should play LJ honest as well: he was a good outside shooter before injuries last year.
Thus the dream for CSSB is to make these four UCLA players the key to the game and hope they are not ready. And quite frankly they are the players to watch tonight for UCLA fans in an exhibition game:
1. Tyler Lamb. If I am CSSB I want to take my chances on him shooting. I will give him any shot outside of 10 feet he wants. Tyler worked hard on his offensive game in the off-season to get rid of the side spin. Make him prove it today.
2. David Wear. David will start and play a lot at the three. Make him shoot outside; prove a 6'10" guy can hit an outside shot. Also make him play defense on the little guys. Try to take him off the dribble on offense. Test him on both ends of the court.
3. Norman Powell. Great athlete but is he a basketball player? Can he shoot? On defense, try to exploit his problems staying in front of his man that Coach Howland has mentioned.
4. De'End Parker. He has been hurting and has not practiced much with his new team. Make him beat you outside. Run him off picks, etc.
UCLA will win today but for the rest of the season it will be interesting to watch how these four players play. They may be the key for UCLA being either merely a "good team" or a Pac-12 champion and more.