UCLA basketball team better hope Ohio State is good

Saturday is UCLA’s final chance to play a contender before diving into the Pac-12 deep end. The Bruins can only hope to face some real adversity against the Buckeyes in Las Vegas before opening conference play at defending champion Oregon Dec. 28.

Yes, a win over Ohio State would help keep UCLA’s record pristine and its ranking (at least) No. 2 in the country. But the advantages of this young team experiencing a tight game – that could potentially lead to a loss – far outweigh either of those. And its too early to start worrying about their NCAA tournament seed.

The Bruins have only played one team in nation’s top tier. Granted, UCLA’s first trip to Rupp Arena, where they beat then No. 1 Kentucky, could not have landed the Bruins in more difficult circumstances. They are only better for it. In fact, it’s easily argued that Michigan is mediocre, as are Texas A&M and Nebraska, the only other Power 5 teams on UCLA’s schedule thus far.

But Ohio State has a chance to be very good. Ask Steve Alford, who was pleading the Buckeyes’ case after UCLA’s 40-point win over UCSB on Wednesday. Read the complete preview story for Saturday’s game debating Ohio State’s standing among the best teams in college basketball.

As with may teams at this stage, it’s difficult to tell how talented Ohio State actually is. The Buckeyes have lost two games and haven’t beaten anybody of consequence, with maybe the exception of Providence. One of their losses was at home to Florida Atlantic – bad sign. But Ohio State nearly won on the road at Virginia, who I think is a potential Final Four team.

Saturday is a chance for the Bruins to experience another close game outside of Pauley Pavilion before they go to Oregon, one of the most difficult places to play in the Pac-12.