Going to change up the pace today and just talk about UC Irvine’s opponent myself instead of conducting a Q&A with their respective blog. There’s always a kick of extra motivation whenever UCI plays UCLA, as the Bruins have long since been our bullying big brothers to the north. They have the history, the brand recognition, the large sports budget. They’re the ones stealing UCI coaches and rejecting UCI students. Whenever UCI can play them tough and make an upset bid, it’s an obvious accomplishment given these disadvantages.
Fortunately, this year’s version of UCLA Basketball is notably less ferocious than their teams in the past. A pedestrian 5-5 record is one sign of this. Another is the dismissal of star Reeves Nelson and a team that seemingly lacks the firepower that it usually has at the guard position.
Unfortunately, UCLA seems to be improving as of late, demolishing UC Davis 82-39 in an embarrassing game for the Aggies where they at one point trailed 31-5. Center Josh Smith is slowly but surely playing himself into game shape by trimming off some of that excessive weight that made former Anteater Eric Wise seem positively svelte in comparison. He killed UCD with 18 points and 10 rebounds, despite only playing 21 minutes. It will be interesting to watch the up-tempo Anteaters push Smith up and down the court, and see how fast he wears out.
Speaking of wearing people out, North Carolina transfers David and Travis Wear will provide match-up problems against UCI as well. Backup center Anthony Stover is a defensive powerhouse, forcing shot alterations every time he hits the floor. Finally, also watch out for Lazeric Jones, who put up 20 points against UCI last year.
It’ll be interesting to see if UCLA goes back to man-to-man against UCI, or if they will play zone like they did against Penn. Whatever defense they play, UCI will have to shoot the ball better than they have thus far if they want to have a chance in this game.
The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Prime Ticket. Over/under on mentions of Michael Wilder’s hair: 7. Over/under on number of fouls Derrick Flowers commits: 5. Over/under on number of minutes from Mike Best: 10. Go Anteaters!