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What’s Bruin: Pac-12 Play Begins for UCLA Basketball

News and notes from around the UCLA-iverse.

UC Santa Barbara v UCLA
Ball, Leaf & Co. begin conference play on the road tonight.
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

After a 13-0 start with wins over then top-ranked Kentucky, and solid Big Ten opponents Michigan and Ohio State, Steve Alford’s Bruin team heads up to Eugene to begin conference play tonight with perhaps the toughest game of the 18-game slate.

Jon Wilner of The Mercury News lays out his Pac-12 predictions for the 2016-17 season, as well as a brief wrap-up of non-conference play from around the league (the Pac-12 did not exactly shine).

The Pac-12 has a mere five wins over top-50 opponents, and that figure includes victories over No. 48 SMU and No. 50 Texas Southern.

In reality, there have been just two high-quality, eye-catching victories: Colorado over Xavier and UCLA over Kentucky.

Wilner has your UCLA Bruins picked to finish second in the conference.

2. UCLA (13-0): The energy is back in Pauley Pavilion under fourth-year coach Steve Alford. The Bruins can score with anyone, and freshman guard Lonzo Ball is a lock for the top 10 of the NBA draft. But is UCLA stout enough on the other end to navigate the conference season and March Madness? Current Pomeroy adjusted defensive efficiency ranking: 64th.

And who does he predict to finish at the top? The Oregon Ducks.

Speaking of tonight’s game, Tyson Alger has a preview of the game from the other side in today’s Oregonian.

Part of Oregon's recent success has been Brooks, who returned to the starting lineup against UNLV after coming off the bench for most of the season. On Wednesday, Chris Boucher is expected to rejoin Brooks back in the starting lineup after the 6-foot-10 senior missed the last two games with a sprained ankle -- meaning that, for the first time this season, the Ducks will field a complete and healthy starting lineup.

Maybe having such a big game during bowl season will ease your football blues?

From Fansided, college basketball contributor Will Schreefer writes about The Lonzo Ball effect on UCLA’s offense this season.

While, in 2015-2016, nearly 43 percent of UCLA’s possessions (that had a shot, and didn’t end in a turnover) started with a mid-range two, that number has dropped to just 28.2 percent in 2016-2017. Most of that drop has been shifted to shots from 3-point range, in a change likely welcome to both UCLA fans and the analytically inclined.

UCLA has also been monstrously more efficient in converting shots near the rim into points — last year, while any possession starting with a rim attempt (dunk, layup, or tip-in) netted the Bruins 1.41 points per possession, that number has shot up to 1.73 points per possession with Lonzo Ball at the helm. This is (obviously) related to how much they run, and how much space has been opened up around the basket with their excellent 3-point shooting — UCLA currently has the highest 2-point percentage, at 62.7, in the country.

We've had a week off of action, but now it’s Game Day!