Okay tonight's game at Pauley against UC Riverside at 8 p.m. is not a total cupcake but it is the last of UCLA's "easy" games before the stretch of Gonzaga at home, Kentucky at a neutral site, and Alabama on the road before the start of the PAC 12.
This game represents the last chance for Steve Alford to fine tune this UCLA basketball team before the going gets tough. It is the last chance to get a look at the bench and decide who is the sixth, seventh and eighth man and who is likely cut out of the rotation. Actually, that is not completely correct. Thomas Welsh's role is defined. He will play for Tony Parker when Parker is out. He will play a number of minutes because of fouling issues of Tony.
I also personally think that Wannah Bail's role has been defined. He will be the ninth man and probably get some DNP coach's decisions this year. Of course, with the fouling issues of this team he may get more minutes than some past people in the ninth spot on the bench.
So really, this is the last chance to decide whether we play Gyrogy Goloman just for Looney or does he play some four with Looney at 3 when Powell (the starting three) is out? Or does Noah Allen win the backup three spot? It seems likely that Allen will play when Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton are out. But Powell and the backup three position seem to still be open. Of course, there should be situational differences as well. However, this is very important because whoever "wins" this position will likely get some important minutes as Powell will get in foul trouble. So far Powell has been in foul trouble in at least three of the nine games.
After tonight, it will be a while before Steve Alford gets a chance to experiment again.
The other thing which would be nice to practice tonight is the set offense. UCLA can out run and out athlete Riverside but after tonight that is not going to be as true.
Related to both those UCLA needs to pound the ball inside. Tonight the advantage is more extreme but as Chrisorr has written outside of Kentucky, Looney will the best four on the floor.
For tonight's game, UC Riverside ranks a deceptively high 246th in the nation in rebounding. I say deceptively high because of one game against non-D 1 Saint Katherine's UCR won the rebounding margin by 30 and really inflated their totals. That is not to say they don't have a good inside player, they do have one in 6'7"Taylor Johns, who leads Riverside in points (15.5) rebounds 7.9, and blocks (2.4). However, he may struggle against Parker and Lonney as he went 1-11 against Utah. It will be interesting to see how Thomas Welsh does against a much smaller but stronger, experienced player.
The player who leads UCR in minutes and threes is Jaylen Brand. Brand washed out with Murray State before coming to UCR. He is a good shooter from distance shooting 46% on over 6 attempts per game.
This is worth keeping in mind. UCR is a decent shooting team, shooting 48% for the season. They can make shots. Typical of this is their point guards, 5'10 Nick Gruninger and 6' Steve Jones, they both shoot over 50% for the season.
I could go on but to suffice it to say UCR has a bunch of guys that can shoot but they don't rebound very well and they have more turnovers than assists for the season.
So UCR stays in the game if the can shoot the ball very well but UCLA will almost certainly win by dominating inside (sound familiar) and turning UCR over.
So will we learn anything more tonight? Will Goloman or Allen win the backup three? Will UCLA pound it inside or will Kevon have to take over in the second half again.