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UCLA Basketball Preview: The On the Court Opponent is Central Arkansas

Another “easy” opponent among big distractions

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Kent State and UCLA Bruins
GG needs to assert himself inside tomorrow night.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Once again the news on a preview is not on the game. All the focus is off the court and what will UCLA will do to the UCLA three. However, for the game tomorrow night this irrelevant as the three players will definitely not play. Will that be a distraction? Or better put how much a distraction?

One thing is for sure, tomorrow night’s game against Central Arkansas Bear should be more about how UCLA wins then if they win. Yes, UCLA still has the specter of the China 3 hanging over then but there is plenty of talent on this team to dominate an undermanned Central Arkansas.

In honor of Dimitir’s three postgame takeaways, I will want to focus on three things to watch in this game more than the final score.

1. Rebounding. A team similarly ranked to UCLA (#22 Ranked Baylor) literally doubled up on rebounding over the Bears: 42-21. While I have every confidence that Thomas Welsh will do his part, this should be a very interesting game to see how starters GG Goloman and the rest of the team does. Goloman needs to show he is a true four and get close to double figures in rebounds. The other bigs need to do well too, Alex Olesinski and Chris Smith need to impose their size when they are in.

2. Three point shooting will also be key. Because of the weakness rebounding Central Arkansas will likely pack it in and dare UCLA to beat them from the outside. Baylor shot over 70% from three against Central Arkansas. Kris Wilkes’s three point shooting was a key to our first win over Georgia Tech. Can he repeat? How will others do if given open looks? Can this year’s addition of UCLA’s offense make them pay?

3. Depth. Central Arkansas coach in hyping his team has the following quote:

"I think the biggest thing this year is depth,' Pennell said. "We just have more players that we can run at you. I also think we're a more mature team, a little bit more athletic. And I just sense that the three years of building is taking us to a really good place, where I think we can be competitive game in and game out.'

The Bears will likely play 10 players more than 10 minutes tomorrow night. Can they wear UCLA down? Can UCLA bench outplay the Bears? To be clear they should.

As far as Central Arkansas themselves, like Georgia Tech they have one definite star. Unlike Georgia Tech, the Bears star is not a threat to be all defensive team as well as offense. Jordan Howard is a 5’11” scoring machine. Howard has averaged 20 points a game the last two seasons and has only one game in the last two seasons he has not made a three pointer. Further he is shooting over 40% for his career including 45% last year from three point land. The kid can score. Of course the last two season his three point percentage has been higher than his two point percentage so this is likely not a game to go zone.

After Howard, well, Central Arkansas has some players. Starting Center is 7’ foot and skinny Hayden Koval. Koval is a 2 star kid who managed just one rebound against Baylor.

The starting four is 6’6” Ethan Lee. Lee is a true four with a limited shooting range and all UCLA’s inside players should be able to control him and win the board battle. GG, Olesinski and Smith must have a huge advantage over Lee to have any chance against the PAC 12’s much better athletes.

The other starting guards have some size but not sure they have much else to offer. And that is just it, Howard is good and can score, especially from three. After that there is not a player who would make UCLA’s top 8.

This game is about UCLA not Central Arkansas Bears. How will they deal with the press conference tomorrow? How will deal with only an eight man rotation?

Go Bruins!.