UCLA is one of the best and most fun stories in college basketball this year while its opponent tomorrow night is one of the worst and most tragic. UCLA is ranked number 2 and is seeking its first perfect non-conference season since 1994-95. (That year ended rather nicely.) Western Michigan has the opposite of a good season going:
Prosecutors charged Western Michigan basketball player Jovieair Kennedy with murder and armed robbery Monday, accusing him of gunning down a fellow student during a robbery of a cellphone and money.
Kennedy, 20, was arraigned Monday in the shooting of 19-year-old Jacob Jones at an off-campus Kalamazoo apartment on Thursday. Kennedy, who is from Muskegon, was denied bond and did not yet have an attorney.
"It's a devastating loss for our university. It's a devastating tragedy for everybody involved," Hawkins said Saturday. "Lives were changed forever, and so, we're very, very respectful of that. We're very shook by the whole thing. Now, it's up to us to try and — as you always do, trying to mentor young people — you just try and pick up the pieces and move forward. There's a lot not known. So that's where we're at."
This is got to be tough for all involved.
On the basketball court Western Michigan is 3-7 and ranked 207 by KemPom. Worse for Western Michigan, they are ranked 140th in Adjusted Offense but only 285 in adjusted defense. UCLA should be able to close out the non-conference portion of the season with another fun win.
That said Western Michigan has proved they can play with a PAC 12 team. They recently played Washington tough and were leading 80-77 with 6 minutes to play. This game is likely a model for Western Michigan. They will hope to bomb UCLA with threes:
Western Michigan: The Broncos relied on long-range shooting against the Huskies. Western Michigan was 12 for 22 on 3-pointers, the most 3s Western Michigan has made this season.
Of course, this game may have been a fluke for Western Michigan since they ranked 274 in 3 point field goal percentage. It may be just a sign how bad Washington is this year. And, of course, UCLA under Alford has struggled at times defending the three.
But, really, this is another game where it probably won't make a difference. Western Michigan tried to run with UW and, if they try to do that with UCLA, well, UCLA will be breaking the 100-point mark for sure.
On a side note, former UCLA player and coach Larry Farmer is an Assistant Coach for Western Michigan. As the official game notes state:
Former UCLA standout Larry Farmer returns to Pauley Pavilion on Wednesday as an assistant coach for Western Michigan. Farmer was a forward on UCLA's national title teams in 1971, 1972 and 1973, helping the Bruins compile an 89-1 record in three varsity seasons. He was an assistant coach at UCLA in 1973-74 and from 1975-81 before serving as the program's head coach from 1982-84.
I am happy to be attending this game because the announcer will be another former Bruin Coach Steve Lavin. (I wonder if this will be the first time these two have been in Pauley together? Ironically, it will be a reunion of two of the worst UCLA coaches, when the Bruins are undefeated in non-conference, something neither of them came close to doing.)
Last nice tidbit from the game notes:
- Through Dec. 19, UCLA ranked first in the nation in field goal percentage (55.4), total assists (285) and assists per game (23.8) and second in points per game (96.9), 3-point percentage (43.9) and assist-turnover ratio (1.95). In addition the Bruins were fifth in defensive rebounds per game (31.9) and 11th in blocks per game (6.2).
- Freshman guard Lonzo Ball ranks second, nationally, in assists per game (8.7), behind Creighton's Maurice Watson Jr. (9.2 apg). Ball has five double-doubles in 12 games, four of the point-assist variety. He was two rebounds shy of a triple-double in the season opener (Nov. 11) and was three assists from a triple-double against UCSB (Dec. 14).
Hopefully, UCLA can add to those numbers a bit tomorrow night. Let's get the first undefeated non-conference season since 94-95.