It means that just because Hawai’i beat a middle-of-the-road Pac-12 team in Utah, it does not mean Hawai’i is good. Second, UCLA can ill afford to lose to any of these mid-level teams because doing well in the Pac-12 is not going to mean as much as usual because of all of the conference’s bad losses. Last night, the consensus favorite to win the Pac-12, Oregon, lost again. This time, the Ducks lost to Texas Southern. As Jon Wilner tweets:
Oregon blows 13-pt lead, loses at home to Texas Southern 89-84.— Jon Wilner (@wilnerhotline) November 27, 2018
The Pac-12 might be a zero-bid league
Of course, that is an exaggeration as the Pac-12 gets an automatic bid and will likely get more than one. But the sentiment is correct, the Pac-12 is awful this season and, for UCLA, that means that it cannot afford to “slip up” in these non-conference games because good Pac-12 wins are going to be hard to come by in the minds of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee.
So, UCLA better start playing at a higher level because, in this four-game homestand, the Bruins face:
- Hawai’i is ranked #196 in Kempom, but beat Utah.
- LMU is ranked #120, but is 7-0.
- Notre Dame is ranked #52 and may be UCLA’s best chance at a decent non-conference win.
- Belmont is ranked #74 and is hitting over 40% from the three-point line.
All but Notre Dame would be terrible losses while a loss to Notre Dame at home would be just a bad loss.
Despite beating Pac-12 rival Utah, Hawai’i may be the easiest of the bunch. Hawai’i is ending a four-game trip to California by playing UCLA after going 1-2 in the Wooden Legacy. Here are a few tidbits from the official Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors’ website:
- The ‘Bows sport a balanced attack with four players averaging double-digit points, led by senior forward Jack Purchase (12.4 ppg).
- UH is averaging 86.8 ppg and 50% shooting in its four wins, and just 56.3 ppg and 40% shooting in its three losses.
- UH leads Big West teams in 3FG per game (8.6), assist/turnover ratio (1.3), and fewest turnovers per game (11.1).
- UH has scored 90 points twice in its first five games (Humboldt State & Utah). UH did not hit the 90-point mark at all last year.
Hawai’i is a team where four of the five starters average more than two assists per game. Even the bigs pass well and their 5’9” “point guard” is actually only second on the team in assists. By contrast, UCLA has only two starters that average two or more assists a game.
Of course, UCLA has a big advantage on the boards and the Bruins average a full 12 more rebounds per game. As a matter of fact, Moses Brown alone almost averages as many rebounds as both Hawai’i’s starting bigs.
Hawai’i is not a team with a star, but they do pass well and are a team of upperclassmen that are not going to be awed by a Pac-12 opponent.
This is a game that UCLA should win easily, but, if they fail to play defense, Hawai’i will score. This is a “must win” because it is the easiest game of this homestand.