Tonight, UCLA welcomes the Drexel Dragons to Old Pauley Under Glass, a team hailing from Philadelphia playing in the Colonial Athletic Association. For whatever it's worth, this should be a step up in competition from the Cal State Somethings we've played thus far.
At least one preview out there of the CAA has tabbed Drexel as the preseason favorite to win their conference, and the never-too-early bracketology seems to imply the same with the Dragons seeded 14th. Of course, this is the CAA, a conference that in the offseason lost the only reason most basketball fans paid attention to that conference at all: Final Four Cinderella George Mason to the Atlantic 10. So it may be a stretch to say that having the talent to win that conference is cause for concern for UCLA.
The Bruins, whose porous perimeter defense in their two exhibitions allowed smaller teams to get close to the rim, will see more tests behind veteran guards Damion Lee, Chris Fouch, and Frantz Massenat. As experienced players generally play with more poise and composure, it would be wise for UCLA to at least attempt to play solid position defense and not rely on errant passes and turnovers. While there's still an open question of who exactly will be able to guard the point on this team, Kyle Anderson, who grew up in New Jersey, will at least be able to draw on some relevant experience:
The game will reunite Anderson, from Fairview, N.J., with Drexel guards Chris Fouch and Damion Lee, and forward Kazembe Abif. Like Anderson, Lee and Abif are from New Jersey.
"I haven't seen anything on Drexel, but I've played against these kids since I was 11 years old," said Anderson, who knows his family will be watching on TV.
Drexel will also feature more size on the interior than the Bruins have seen against the Cal States. The Dragons return 6-8 Dartaye Ruffin and the aforementioned 6-7 Kazembe Abif. Based on their stats, one wouldn't immediately think them to be scoring threats, but with our own frontline being anchored by Tony Parker and David Wear, whose rebounding efforts have been questionable thus far, there may be reason to keep the guards at home to help our beleaguered bigs tonight.
Not to oversell anything, this is still a team that went 13-18 last season. So yes, Drexel has experience on their side, but that's not exactly the kind of experience we think of when we use that term. At the end of the day, talent is obviously on the Bruins side with Howland's remaining players and Zach LaVine, not to mention the fact that Drexel is about 3000 miles and three timezones from home. Whatever our deficiencies, on the flipside, I'm not seeing a way for Drexel to hold back Anderson, LaVine, and half man half beast Jordan Adams. This is not a game that TRA and his team should struggle with.
Tipoff is at 9 PM PST on the Pac-12 Network.