USA TODAY Sports
Can UCLA stake its claim as the third best team in California, or will the 49ers bring more disgrace to Coach's program?
Here we go again. 72 hours after yet another "huge" win over Prairie View A&M, the UCLA Bruins welcome some more familiar competition in the Long Beach State 49ers to Old Pauley Under Glass.
The Bruins and 49ers share more than just a geographical footprint. They are also similar in terms of lack of personnel:
Shepherd's injury is to his medial collateral ligament (MCL), similar to the one Larry Robinson had late last season. "It's an injury that shouldn't keep someone out for a long period, but that depends on the person," Monson said.
Junior guard Jerramy King is out for the season with a shoulder injury, the 49ers lost freshman guard Branford Jones in the season opener to a season-ending broken leg, and Monson is sticking with plans to redshirt freshman guard Javion Watson.
The injury to the aforementioned Nick Shepherd left LBSU with a 7 man rotation in their last win against Division II BYU-Hawaii. However, unlike Howland's program, the cavalry might be coming for the 49ers:
Transfers Keala King (Arizona State), Tony Freeland (DePaul) and Edgar Garibay (Loyola Marymount) all become eligible for the 49ers' next game, at UCLA on Tuesday, although all three will have to have their final grades for the semester posted by Monday to play.
LBSU gets players back in midseason while we're busy saying our goodbyes to contributing members of our rotation in Tyler Lamb and Josh Smith.
The 49ers and Bruins are also similar in some other unglamorous aspects, like their disappointing start (4-6) to the season, but unlike UCLA, LBSU's struggles are somewhat explainable. Their 10 games include 2 Division II teams, leaving them with only 2 Division I wins on the year, however their losses include @Arizona, North Carolina, @Syracuse, and @Ohio State. As you'd expect of a mid major, they are forced to fill their non conference slate with a lot of road games. One of their victories this season includes a win at Loyola Marymount, a team Howland couldn't beat last year.
It's hard to say what LBSU may or may not get out of their newly eligible transfers, but of the players who have been available, the story is once again mixed. LBSU shoots 39% from the field. Not three pointers. That's their overall percentage. That's good for the bottom 10% in all of Division I. They are led by senior James Ennis who averages 16.6 PPG and 8 RPG on 43% shooting. Kris Gulley looks to be the 49ers only reliable perimeter threat, which would indicate the smart thing to do would be to start in a zone, and which virtually guarantees that we will play man. What LBSU does have is rather decent size in the front court, but nothing that should give any of our lineups difficulty. In the backcourt, the 49ers feature a couple of Larry Drew II's in Mike Caffey and Peter Pappageorge: guards that can't shoot.
There are a lot of warning signs here that this team isn't as bad as their lonely pair of Division I wins indicate, but once again this is another team that is at a severe raw talent disadvantage to the Bruins. It still looks to be another opportunity to pick up another "HUGE" win for this struggling program. The competition is really ramping up after Texas with RPI 170 PVAM and now RPI 103 LBSU. UCLA will have to not take this game lightly tomorrow night if it wants to stake its claim behind San Diego State and Cal Poly as the Third Best Team In California.