After its schedule peaked last weekend with undistinguished Texas A&M and Nebraska teams, do we really know how good No. 11 UCLA is? We’ll have a lot better idea after Saturday’s spike in the Bruins’ slate.
The Bruins’ schedule is ranked 268th in the country, according to Ken Pomroy. That number will skyrocket after Saturday’s meeting with No. 1 Kentucky, a matchup that is fascinating on several fronts. For further detail, read my preview of UCLA’s biggest game of the young season.
First of all, it’s not out of the question for a win to conceivably vault UCLA to No. 1 in the nation. Aside from who wins, simply watching Lonzo Ball and T.J. Leaf measure themselves against not one, not two, not three, but four other elite freshmen is a rare opportunity.
While this will mark UCLA’s first-ever trip to Rupp Arena, these two teams have a recent history. This will be not just the third time they’ve played in three years, but the third time Kentucky has been the No. 1 team in the country when they’ve met. UCLA upset the Wildcats at Pauley Pavilion last season. But two years ago, Kentucky handed UCLA one of the most embarrassing defeats in the proud program’s history. How embarrassing? UCLA scored seven points in the first half.
On the statistical front, UCLA and Kentucky are two of the four highest-scoring teams in the country. There are only two teams in the nation that average less than Kentucky and UCLA’s 13.6 seconds per possession. You better not leave your seat, says Steve Alford. In other words, this game is going to be as entertaining as much for the talent – there are six 2016 McDonald’s All-Americans between the two teams – as it is for the breakneck pace of play.
Who will win? I’m predicting a close game in which UCLA will do itself proud but come up short:
Kentucky 93, UCLA 90