Current Laker Lonzo Ball as a UCLA Bruin being guarded by USC’s De’Anthony Melton during a Crosstown Rivalry game last season. Photo courtesy of Pac-12.com
A LOOK AT THE HOOPS SQUADS AT UCLA, USC, AND SELECTED OTHER COLLEGES IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA FOR THIS SEASON AS CONFERENCE PLAY IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER
UCLA BRUINS BASKETBALL BY THE NUMBERS (MEN’S & WOMEN’S TEAMS)
UCLA BRUINS (Men):
Current Record: 7-2
Coach: Steve Alford, 5th season
Aaron Holiday, G: 12.7 ppg, 5.7 apg
Thomas Welch, C: 13.6 ppg, 10.8 rpg
Kris Wilkes, G: 12.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg
Last Game: Lost to Michigan on December 9th, 78-69
Next Game: vs Cincinnati at Pauley Pavilion, December 16th
These Bruins seem to be hanging in there since LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill were caught shoplifting from luxury stores in China.
And I’m sure they and the rest of Bruin Nation are feeling at least a bit relieved over the fact that with LiAngelo leaving school and signing with a Lithuanian pro team along with his brother LaMelo, UCLA won’t be seeing them and (especially) their father Lavar around campus or in Westwood anymore.
As for how I see Alford’s team doing for the rest of this month and in conference play when that starts right before New Year’s…
Riley and Hill provided a depth that with them indefinitely suspended, I think that lack of depth could well hurt the Bruins going forward; signs of such have appeared already.
They’ll undoubtedly lose to 8th ranked Kentucky when they play them on December 23rd, and their upcoming contest with Cincinnati on the 16th will be a challenge.
Outside of that, I see them finishing anywhere from first to sixth in the Pac-12.
W-L Prediction Going Into Pac-12 Play: 9-3
UCLA BRUINS (Women):
Current Record: 7-2
Rank: #11 in AP Poll, #12 in Coaches Poll
Coach: Cori Close, 7th season
Monique Billings, F: 15.1 ppg, 8.8 rpg
Jordin Canada, G: 14.4 ppg, 6.1 apg
Kennedy Burke, G: 12.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg
Last Game: Lost to Oklahoma State on December 8th, 87-72
Next Game: at Seton Hall on December 17th
The only reason why these Bruin women aren’t in the top ten right now is due to a HORRIBLY PATHETIC first quarter against Oklahoma State, where they were outscored 20-6 on the way to losing in Stillwater.
Outside of that, Cori Close’s team has been very impressive.
I know this because I personally saw them take down then-3rd ranked Baylor on November 18th, going on to give powerful, Supergirl-like, forever a champion Connecticut a game a few days later.
They were rightfully picked to win the Pac-12 Conference, but you know what?
They way those Lady Bruins are set up, I think they’re a Final Four contender right now – provided that things go right and they have no more bad performances like at Oklahoma State.
And I also think they’re the best college basketball team in all of SoCal, men or women.
I’ll elaborate more on that on this blog soon.
W-L Prediction Going Into Pac-12 Play: 9-2
USC TROJANS BASKETBALL BY THE NUMBERS (MEN’S & WOMEN’S TEAMS)
USC TROJANS (Men):
Current Record: 4-3
Coach: Andy Enfield, 5th season
Chimezie Metu, F: 15.6 ppg, 8.1 rpg
Bennie Boatwright, F: 14.6 ppg, 7.9 rpg
Jordan McLaughlin, G: 14.4 ppg, 6.3 apg
Last Game: Lost to Oklahoma on December 8th, 85-83
Next Game: vs Santa Clara at Galen Center on December 14th
When it was announced that all of the players who set the record for most wins by a Trojan basketball team last season would return, (seemingly) everyone crowned them Pac-12 champions and Final Four contenders before practice started in October.
Even Tony Bland, their assistant coach, being arrested in a FBI probe over giving and lending money to players and recruits hadn’t changed sentiments over a USC team that’s expected to be the best in their history.
So what were those Trojans doing losing their last three games?
When I looked at their schedule, I saw that the wins in their first four contests were over teams that they were expected to beat.
In other words, those wins were of the “Big Wow!” kind.
I’m not going to call Enfield’s team a fraud just yet, because ‘SC does have much veteran talent and are definitely contenders for the conference title.
But they’re going to have to prove it to me – that’s all I’m saying.
W-L Prediction Going Into Pac-12 Play: 8-3
USC TROJANS (Women):
Current Record: 8-0
Coach: Mark Trakh, 1st season (currently, was the USC Women of Troy coach from 2005-2009)
Kristen Simon, F: 18.5 ppg, 8.0 rpg
Minyon Moore, G: 15.6 ppg, 5.5 apg
Aliyah Mazyek, G: 14.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg
Last Game: Beat Loyola Marymount, 80-70, on December 1st
Next Game: vs Texas A&M at Galen Center on December 15th
I reckon that the Trojan Family is crowing over their Women of Troy’s undefeated record to start the season after Cynthia Cooper-Dyke resigned as their coach following last season.
But my prevailing thoughts upon looking at their non-conference schedule are…
“They haven’t played anybody!”
“Have the guts to play UConn (which UCLA has done TWICE this calendar year)! Play Baylor! Play South Carolina! Play Notre Dame like your football brothers do!”
Sorry USC, but beating up on teams like UC Riverside, Long Beach State, Hawaii and Marist does NOT impress me.
Until they beat someone of note, that’s how I will feel about that 8-0 mark.
As such, since two of their remaining three non-conference games are against virtual Little Sisters of the Poor – they’ll face 16th ranked Texas A&M as well – they’ll be sporting an impressive record when Pac-12 play begins.
But it won’t be impressive to me.
PUT IT LIKE THIS: There’s a reason why those Trojans are not ranked despite being undefeated.
W-L Prediction Going Into Pac-12 Play: 10-1
Among the SoCal teams playing in the Big West and West Coast Conference, only two of them – one in each gender – are doing well in their non-conference slate and are worth mentioning here.
They’ll be called…
THE BEST OF THE REST
UC SANTA BARBARA GAUCHOS (Men):
Current Record: 8-2
Coach: Joe Pasternack, 1st season
Max Heidegger, G: 23.4 ppg
Leland King II, F: 19.2 ppg, 10.0 rpg
Jalen Canty, F: 11.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg
Last Game: Beat Montana State, 91-69, on December 9th
Next Game: at USC on December 17th
LOYOLA MARYMOUNT LIONS (Women):
Current Record: 7-2
Coach: Charity Elliott, 6th season (husband Chris Elliott is an assistant coach)
Cheyanne Wallace, G: 17.8 ppg, 7.4 rpg
Gabby Green, G: 16.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 4.4 apg
Bree Alford, F: 8.8 ppg, 10.0 rpg
Last Game: Lost to Cal State Northridge, 75-68, on December 9th
Next Game: at SMU on December 20th
Some action from the women’s basketball version of the Crosstown Rivalry from last season…