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Cal State Northridge at UCLA Preview, Can UCLA Get Tough?

Cal State Northridge is a really bad team. Will UCLA play well or just be the better bad team?

Alex is certainly not UCLA's best player, but he is the one guy whose effort you can't question
Alex is certainly not UCLA's best player, but he is the one guy whose effort you can't question
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Oh, we have a basketball game tonight at 4 today to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Pauley.  I understand why everyone is talking about yesterday's game at USC but how many would care if that was not the topic of the day?  Speaking of Just SC, they beat UCLA's opponent tonight, CSUN, by 34 points earlier this season.

And to be clear Cal State Northridge (CSUN) is a bad team, they have just 2 wins to go with 4 losses and one of those wins doesn't really count as it was against a NAIA team Vanguard.  CSUN is ranked 281 by Kenpom as of Friday.  Their most recent game was an overtime loss against LMU ranked 291 by Kenpom.

So the real question is not about this game but the next one.  CSUN is the last prep game before number #1 Kentucky this Thursday.  A game that the UCLA marketing machine has been pushing hard to fill the crowd with at least some UCLA fans. No one expects UCLA to beat Kentucky but worse most don't expect UCLA to even make the game competitive.  To even compete in that game UCLA must get tougher.

So we are now into the ugly games on paper.  Bad teams in all the games.  Sometimes two, sometimes just UCLA.  To be clear UCLA can be bad tonight and beat CSUN.  Led by Tony Parker, ranked number 9 in the country in rebounds, and UCLA is ranked 58 in rebounding in the country. CSUN ranks 217.  Tony should be able to dominate inside again for a big game.  But the more interesting thing about this game and the next is what Tony said after the loss to Wake Forest:

Senior big man Tony Parker called out the team's toughness after an 80-77 loss to Wake Forest on Wednesday night. While Alford said some of that was due to frustration, he didn't disagree with the sentiment either.

"We've got a great group of young men," Alford said. "They're fun to coach. But we definitely have to get tougher."

Get tougher.  A preview of the game tonight is pointless since CSUN is so bad their biggest fight right now is they want to be called Cal State Northridge.  The opponent is irrelevant, UCLA needs to get tougher.  Here is a tip for each player:

Bryce Alford you don't have to bring the ball up, use that extra energy to play tough D tonight.

Isaac Hamilton don't let a bad play get you in a funk.  Stay mentally tough.

Tony Parker dominate inside but don't foul.  Be the leader.

Thomas Welsh.  Use your seven feet and crash the boards.  Don't let the midgets push you around.

Aaron Holiday go over screens not under.  Yeah CSUN may miss the three anyway but pretend they are a good team so you will be ready when it is tough.

Jonah Bolden.  This team needs you to be tough inside. Forget the big guard talk, play like a four.

Prince Ali you are tough going to the basket on offense.  Show that same toughness on defense.  You are the worst rebounder on the team on a per minute basis.  Step up your effort.

Alex Olesinski actually you do play tough.  You seem to give your all on both sides of the court.  It would be great if the whole team gave the effort that you do.  You are out rebounding Bolden in 1/3 less playing time.  Sure you are shooting terrible but no one doubts your effort or toughness at either side of the court.

Go Bruins.