UCLA vs. Lousiana-Lafayette
The Bruins (7-3) have little to gain and much to lose tonight against Louisiana-Lafayette (3-4). After upset wins against Kentucky and Gonzaga, UCLA has climbed into the top-25 of the AP Poll (currently 22nd) and is knocking on the door of the USA Today Coaches Poll Top-25. A comfortable UCLA victory tonight against a struggling program is expected; anything short of that will raise the same questions that followed unexpected losses to Monmouth and Wake Forest.
Many UCLA fans are asking the same question that DCBruins raised in his article yesterday: Is UCLA for real? Over 1000 people voted in the poll at the end of the article, and the Bruins Nation community answer to the question is a toss-up between "maybe" and "yes." Only 10% of the community voted "no,' although I suspect that a loss against the Ragin' Cajuns would see that 10% balloon to 90% or more. In short, all of the accomplishments of the past two weeks will be washed away if UCLA fails to win tonight.
The official site has a one paragraph preview of Louisiana-Lafayette. Or to be more precise, a four sentence preview. For those who like opposition previews, Louisiana-Lafayette has an official preview too, and the Advocate out of Baton Rouge has perhaps the best preview of the bunch.
The Ragin' Cajuns' three big wins this season have been against college basketball powerhouses Louisiana College (108-68), Loyola of New Orleans (106-62), and McNeese State (97-64). (For what it's worth, the Bruins play McNeese State next Tuesday.) Louisiana-Lafayette's losses have come against Miami (77-93), Alabama (93-105), ULM (70-81), and Louisiana Tech (79-91).
The game preview at CBS Sports is a tad more enlightening than either of the official previews:
The Bruins scheduled Louisiana-Lafayette (3-4) partly because the Ragin' Cajuns were picked to win the Sun Belt in the preseason by the league's coaches. Louisiana-Lafayette features power forward Shawn Long, the preseason conference player of the year whose 56 double-doubles since the start of 2012-13 are the most in the nation.
The Ragin Cajuns are the third highest scoring team in Division 1 with a 90 points/game average. Considering the fact that the Bruins have been at their best against teams that are more deliberate and lower scoring, the Ragin' Cajuns' up-tempo style will likely give the Bruins' transition defense a good test.
6'11" senior power forward Shawn Long is the team's leading scorer and rebounder; he's averaging 18.3 points/game and 11.6 rebounds/game. Although long has not been a good three-point shooter so far this season, he's averaging three attempts per game, so he could prove to be a difficult matchup for Parker.
Junior guard Jay Wright (6'1") leads Louisiana-Lafayette in assists, but he's also an accurate shooter (42.1% from beyond the arc), though not from the charity stripe (52.2%). Wright averages just shy of 11 points per game.
6'3" senior guard Kasey Shepherd gives the Ragin' Cajuns solid production off the bench. He's averaging 12 points/game, and has been particularly effective at getting to the free throw line and converting (85%).
Defensively, Louisiana-Lafayette has serious problems. Its opponents are shooting three-pointers at a nearly 40% clip. And in four of its seven games, Louisiana-Lafayette has allowed its opponent to shoot over 50% from the field. In other words, the Ragin' Cajuns are giving their opponents plenty of open looks. Obviously, that's terrific news for the Bruins, but it's important that UCLA stay within its offensive framework, which means getting the ball to Parker and Welsh. If the Bruins fall into the trap of taking shots from the perimeter early in the shot clock, then it plays into the hands of the Ragin' Cajuns. Of course, the Bruins can probably win even if they don't have the discipline to run their offense through their bigs, but it could very well turn into an ugly game with the Ragin' Cajuns staying close until the end.
Russell Westbrook Gives Back
In case you missed the news, Russell Westbrook has contributed a large sum to UCLA's Mo Ostin Basketball Center project. According to the UCLA Athletic Department, Westbrook's donation is the largest in UCLA history from a former student-athlete. The practice floor inside the new facility will be named Russell Westbrook Court to acknowledge Westbrook's support for the project.
This is what Westbrook had to say about his connection to UCLA basketball:
"I loved my time at UCLA and jumped at the opportunity to give back to the University that provided me with amazing opportunities and great memories. I am truly honored to be part of the legacy that is Bruin basketball."
Day in, and day out, on the court and off the court, Russell Westbrook continues to prove that he's a great Bruin!
The great Cajun fiddler Michael Doucet is a native of Lafayette, Louisiana. I realize that this isn't the type of music that is ordinarily featured in pregame guesses, but if you haven't heard anything by Doucet or his band Beausoleil before, give it a try and see what you think.
"L'ouragan" ("The Hurricane")
1. Will the Bruins score 100+ points tonight?
2. Will UCLA shoot more or less than 40% on three-pointers?
3. True or false: Bryce Alford will play 34 minutes or more.