That’s because the Bruins haven’t exactly been playing very good basketball as they head into today’s game against the Top Ten Wildcats.
Yet, at the same time, Kentucky has become a team that UCLA is familiar with. This will be the fifth meeting between the teams since the 2014-15 season. In the four previous meetings since 2014, each team has won twice. Interestingly, the Bruins two wins have come at home and at Rupp Arena in Lexington while the Wildcats have take the two games at neutral sites.
When you factor in how the Bruins have been playing, it almost seems like UCLA is facing a perfect storm and it feels like they could be looking at a game similar to 2014 when UCLA was outscored 41-7 in the first half.
If the Bruins continue to turn the ball over like they did last weekend versus Cincinnati and on Tuesday against South Dakota, this game could get very ugly very quickly.
So far this season, the Wildcats are 9-1 with their lone loss coming against the Kansas Jayhawks on November 14th. Their next toughest game was against the Virginia Tech Hokies last weekend, but they still won 93-86.
Overall, the Wildcats’ starting five can be described with just one word: young.
While Steve Alford has been embarrassingly calling the Bruins young as recently as last weekend, he won’t be able to do that today. That’s because if the Bruins are “young”, then the Wildcats must still be in diapers as John Calipari will likely start five freshmen against UCLA.
So, youth and inexperience are no excuse today for Steve Alford and the Bruins.
Hamidou Diallo, the Cats’ elder statesman as a redshirt freshman, has averaged 20.3 ppg over his last four games while Kevin Knox leads the team for the season with an average of 15.8 ppg. Forward Nick Richard leads Kentucky with 6.6 rebounds per game while Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the team assist leader with 4.1 assist per game. The starting five is rounded out by PJ Washington. Alternatively, another freshman Quade Green could start in place of Gilgeous-Alexander. Green has started more frequently, but Gilgeous-Alexander started last weekend.
Either way, look for the player who doesn’t start to be the first man off the bench for Coach John Calipari. It doesn’t change the fact that Alford cannot use youth and inexperience as an excuse for today’s game in place of the fact that he isn’t doing a very good job of coaching his team.