UCLA basketball finalizes 2015-16 nonconference schedule

UCLA men’s basketball released its upcoming nonconference schedule today, and the spot to mark in your calendar is Dec. 3.

That’s when the Bruins will host Kentucky, facing a team that dismantled them in an 83-44 blowout last December in Chicago — one that the Wildcats opened with a 24-0 run. UK will almost certainly enter Pauley Pavilion as the favorite, but this is also a team that lost seven players from its Final Four squad.

As has become customary under head coach Steve Alford — who is heading into his third season — UCLA has a loaded nonconference slate that also includes a visit to Gonzaga on Dec. 12, and a game against North Carolina on Dec. 19 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Both teams beat the Bruins by double-digits last winter. The Bulldogs also ended UCLA’s season with a 74-62 win in the Sweet 16.

“I’ve maintained all along that we want to upgrade our program’s schedule in hopes of playing tough and exciting marquee games,” Alford said in a statement, “and I’d say we’ve moved even further in that direction this year. … This non-conference schedule figures to be one of the strongest in the nation, and I know our players can’t wait to take on this challenge.”

The Bruins could also play Kansas and Indiana in November’s Maui Invitational, a tournament that also includes St. John’s, UNLV and Wake Forest.

UCLA’s first competition will come in an exhibition game against Cal State Los Angeles on Oct. 30, and it will officially open its season against Monmouth on Nov. 13.

See the full nonconference schedule below:

Oct. 30 — Cal State Los Angeles (Pauley Pavilion) — exhibition
Nov. 13 — Monmouth (Pauley Pavilion)
Nov. 15 — Cal Poly (Pauley Pavilion)
Nov. 19 — Pepperdine (Pauley Pavilion)
Nov. 23 — Maui Invitational (Lahaina Civic Center)
Nov. 24 — Maui Invitational (Lahaina Civic Center)
Nov. 25 — Maui Invitational (Lahaina Civic Center)
Nov. 29 — CSUN (Pauley Pavilion)
Dec. 3 — Kentucky (Pauley Pavilion)
Dec. 6 — Long Beach State (Pauley Pavilion)
Dec. 12 — at Gonzaga (McCarthey Athletic Center)
Dec. 15 — Louisiana-Lafayette (Pauley Pavilion)
Dec. 19 — vs. North Carolina (Barclays Center)
Dec. 22 — McNeese State (Pauley Pavilion)