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UCLA vs. Monmouth: Game Day News & Notes

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A collection of news and notes about UCLA basketball ahead of tip-off between UCLA and Monmouth tonight.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

UCLA vs. Monmouth

UCLA Men's Basketball opens the 2015-16 season tonight with a game against Monmouth. Tip-off is at 8 PM PST in Pauley Pavilion.

Former Bruin Alfred Aboya is the honorary captain tonight. If you can spare 57 seconds, I recommend watching the following video:

As DCBruins notes in his excellent preview, the game shapes up to be a battle between small and big--David versus Goliath. Let's hope that Goliath triumphs this time around.

The Asbury Park Press has a preview of tonight's game from a Monmouth perspective, and it's interesting to see how differently people outside the UCLA fanbase view the Bruins. According to Josh Newman, the key for Monmouth is slowing down Bryce Alford. Apparently that assignment will fall to Monmouth point guard Justin Robinson, who had this to say about Bryce after watching film of the Bruins:

"Bryce Alford, he's got the greenest light I've seen in a few years... That poses an extreme threat because you have to be ready the entire time. There's no room for error, you can't be lackadaisical off the ball, you have to run off screens because they're going to be setting a lot of them."

While it's important for Monmouth to keep track of Bryce Alford, I think the Hawks will have their hands full with Tony Parker and Thomas Welsh.

Joey Kaufman at the OC Register has an interesting feature on sophomore Thomas Welsh. Among the tidbits in the article, my favorite is this story from Sean Miller, Welsh's coach this summer while Welsh was practicing and competing as a member of the United States U19 team at the FIBA World Championships:

"You've been around a lot of kids for brief periods of time, sometimes guys you've coached or even going back to when I played the game, teammates," Miller began. "I don't know if I've been around a nicer kid."

"He said, ‘Thank you,' I think 26 days in a row after every practice or game," Miller said. "It's just kind of who he is."

Thank you, Thomas, for representing the four letters so well!

Basketball Recruiting

In case you missed the news, five-star power forward T.J. Leaf committed to UCLA yesterday. ESPN has video of Leaf's announcement.

According to Chris Johnson and Jeremy Woo at Sports Illustrated, Leaf ranks 15th in the 2016 Recruiting Services Consensus Index. Two other future Bruins figure in the RCSI Top 100: point guard Lonzo Ball is currently #7, and center Ike Anigbogu is #62.

Bruins Nation favorite Jeff Eisenberg writes in the Dagger that the addition of Leaf makes UCLA's Class of 2016 the fourth best in the nation at this point, behind Duke, Michigan State, and Kentucky. Eisenberg opines that the Bruins' 2016 recruiting class could give UCLA enough talent to return to the Final Four:

"Pair that class with the returning talent UCLA should have back next season, and the Bruins could have their most talented roster since the heyday of the Ben Howland era when they went to three straight Final Fours from 2006-2008."

"Leaf should be an important piece on that team because of his combination of skill and athleticism. He is a deft passer, a capable rebounder and a scoring threat both in the paint and from the high post."

However, Eisenberg notes that Steve Alford's recruiting strategy may be cause for concern down the road:

"A major reason for UCLA's renewed recruiting success in Southern California is the strong relationship between assistant coach David Grace and the Compton Magic AAU program. Leaf, Anigbogu and Paras are all members of the Magic, as are Class of 2017 UCLA commits Jaylen Hands and Jalen Hill.

Over-reliance on that pipeline could be a long-term concern for UCLA, but for now the Bruins shouldn't apologize for reaping the benefits."

Women's Basketball

UCLA Women's Basketball opens its season this evening at Pauley as well in the first game of a UCLA basketball doubleheader. The Bruins' opponent today is St. John's. The Red Storm were 23-11 last year, and are ranked 33rd in the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll. Needless to say, the women's team faces a bigger challenge than the men in their opener.

By the way, like the men's team, the Bruins sit outside the top-25 in the preseason Coaches Poll at #35. After bringing in strong recruiting classes the past two years, the pressure is on Coach Close to at least get the Bruins into the NCAA Tournament in 2016-17.

Bruins in the NBA

A handful of former Bruins were in action last night. Zach LaVine started at point guard(!) for the Timberwolves last night and scored 13 points in a losing effort. Shabazz Muhammad had a strong game off the bench for the T-Wolves, scoring 16 points and collecting 4 rebounds in 19 minutes.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute's Clippers didn't fare well last night, losing to the Suns in Phoenix 118-104. Mbah a Moute came off the bench to score 9 points in 15 minutes.

Pregame Guesses

In keeping with the theme of DC's preview, I offer this from the first album by Take 6, an a cappella gospel group from Alabama.

I realize it isn't typical of the music that usually features in pregame guesses, but give it a try and see what you think.

Here are your questions for today's opener against Monmouth:

1. Which of the Bruins will lead the team in shots (not including free throws) tonight?

2. Who will lead the Bruins in rebounding?

3. In last season's opener, the Bruins beat Montana State by 35. Assuming the Bruins beat Monmouth, will the margin of victory be 35 points or more?

Go BRUINS!