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Pepperdine at UCLA Preview: UCLA has a BIG Advantage

If UCLA plays smart, UCLA should have its easiest game yet against Pepperdine

Pepperdine Waves forward Stacy Davis (5) leads Pepperdine in scoring and rebounds but will look small like he did against Gonzaga against UCLA's big front line.
Pepperdine Waves forward Stacy Davis (5) leads Pepperdine in scoring and rebounds but will look small like he did against Gonzaga against UCLA's big front line.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

When the Pepperdine Waves play at Pauley at 7:30 p.m. Thursday on the PAC 12 Network don't believe it over and over again when you hear what a tough opponent Pepperdine is for UCLA.  Yes they are a solid experienced team, but not exactly a tough match up.

First why the announcers will say it is a tough game, from the Waves season outlook:

After bringing back 12 letterwinners and all five starters from last season's 18-win team, the Waves are a near-unanimous preseason pick to finish third in the West Coast Conference. Some media have mentioned Pepperdine and the NCAA Tournament in the same sentence, while also discussing the Waves' possibility of challenging Gonzaga and BYU for a spot in the league's top two.. . .

[T]he Waves' returning players account for 97.3% of last season's points. They'll also return the same defensive mentality that limited opponents to just 61.6 points per game (the program's best scoring defense since 1961-62) and that allowed foes to make just 27.0% of their three-pointers, a school record and a figure that ranked second in the nation.

Why am I not worried?  Let's look at Pepperdine's front line:

  • Stacy Davis 6'6" Forward
  • Jett Raines 6'7" Forward

Why else and am I not worried.  Pepperdine 2014-15 NCAA Ranks (out of 351)

  • Rebound Margin #241 -1.2 per game and total rebounds #226

Pepperdine is not a good rebounding team.  UCLA can win this if they play through Parker and Welsh.  But what about Stacy Davis who has led Pepperdine in scoring and rebounding the last two seasons:

A two-time All-WCC first team selection ... Though three seasons, is averaging 14.1 points and 7.5 rebounds

But Davis also had four fouls in four of the first eight games last year.  In other words against non-conference teams Davis was in foul trouble and limited.  If he has to cover Tony Parker, don't expect him to finish the game without at least reduced minutes from fouls.

But wait what does Pepperdine do so well that has so many scared?

  • Three Pt FG Defense (351 ranked)           #2           27.0

So this game is really simple.  UCLA needs to work it inside.  They have a BIG BIG advantage.  If UCLA tries to bomb it from three, Pepperdine is very good at defending the three.  And look, Parker has historically eaten up guys like Pepperdine smaller players.

The news is also surprisingly good when the Waves are on offense.  UCLA perimeter defense has been really bad and/or nonexistent.  Again Pepperdine is a good opponent for UCLA as Pepperdine's ranks on offense last year show:

Three-Point Field Goals Per Game (351 ranked)  #322      4.5

Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage (351 ranked)               #290         31.3%

Pepperdine absolutely stinks shooting it outside.   UCLA atrocious perimeter should not be as costly this time.

Pepperdine's Ken Pom rank of 88 of Pepperdine is higher than either Cal Poly 97 or Monmouth 147 but this may be the best match up for UCLA. . . if they play smart.  If Tony Parker and Thomas Welsh are taking most of the shots and the guards are getting them the ball, then this game may be the easiest yet.  If Bryce Alford, Isaac Hamilton, and Aaron Holiday are trying to win the game by shooting threes, UCLA third game may be as tough as the first two.

Go Bruins.