About Clay Fowler

Clay Fowler is a Dallas native, graduated from the University of Texas and worked in Central Texas for two years before joining the Daily Bulletin staff in 2006.

No. 11 UCLA vs. No. 1 Kentucky: Will Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf measure up?

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. Continue reading

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How I voted in the AP college basketball poll: UCLA climbs again

Wooden Legacy tournament MVP Lonzo Ball helped UCLA climb three more spots in the AP poll.

Wooden Legacy tournament MVP Lonzo Ball helped UCLA climb three more spots in the AP poll.

UCLA has climbed three spots in the AP poll each of the last two weeks, landing at No. 11 this week. The Bruins proved their freshmen can deliver in close games, but I’m most interested in the way they’ve won against opponents with contrasting strengths. For example, UCLA didn’t have a player who could matchup with Texas A&M preseason All-SEC center Tyler Davis. But the Bruins found ways not to get dominated in the paint or on the boards by a physically superior Aggies team.

UCLA still has plenty to prove, which is why I don’t have them ranked as high on my ballot, but it deserves credit for finding ways to beat every team on the schedule seven games into the season.

How I voted:
1. Kentucky
2. Villanova
3. Virginia
4. Kansas
5. Duke
6. North Carolina
7. Gonzaga
8. Baylor

I was a late arrival to the Baylor party because I wasn’t convinced by the win over Oregon sans Dillon Brooks. But two more wins over ranked teams this week, including Louisville, and maybe Kansas better start watching its back in the Big 12.
9. St. Mary’s
10. Xavier
11. Purdue
12. Louisville
13. UCLA

The Bruins achieved their first two wins over power 5 opponents this week. While Texas A&M and Nebraska aren’t world beaters, UCLA handled its business and proved its freshmen can deliver in close games. Continue reading

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UCLA basketball beefs up resume with major conference wins


It wasn’t just that No. 14 UCLA beat SEC and Big Ten teams over the weekend, it was how those wins were achieved that should inspire some more confidence.

For the first time in this young season, UCLA found itself in not one, but two tight games. It won both, claiming the tournament title at the Wooden Legacy in the process.

In Friday’s semifinal it staved off a pesky Nebraska team that nearly erased UCLA’s 15-point second-half lead. Then it withstood four lead changes and two tie scores in the final five minutes of Sunday’s win over Texas A&M in the tournament title game.

It’s not like they’re toppling the best teams in the country (Wait for it…UCLA plays at No. 1 Kentucky on Saturday!) but these are major conference opponents that pushed the Bruins to provide answers to some significant questions. Most notably, could freshmen Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf answer the bell in close games? The answer is an unequivocal yes. Continue reading

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How I voted in the AP college basketball poll: UCLA moves up

Aaron Holiday and UCLA moved up three spots this week in the Associated Press poll

Aaron Holiday and UCLA moved up three spots this week in the Associated Press poll

Here is the ballot I submitted for Week 3 of the Associated Press college basketball poll. I hit UCLA on the number this week, moving the Bruins up thee spots as they ascended to the highest-scoring team in the country.

How I voted:
1. Kentucky
The thought of giving Villanova my first-place vote certainly crossed my mind, but Kentucky’s dismantling of Michigan State was more impressive to me than Villanova’s much more narrow win over Purdue.
2. Villanova
3. Virginia
4. Indiana Continue reading

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UCLA basketball links: Steve Alford’s job looking more secure

It’s not an exaggeration to say Steve Alford helped himself more than any college basketball coach in the country with the one significant opportunity provided to him since the debacle that was last season.

The UCLA coach didn’t just pull in a good 2017 recruiting class over the last week, he landed the consensus No. 1 group in the nation (rivals, scout, espn and 247sports each ranked UCLA No. 1).

For the coach with 4/9 odds to return to his team next season, Alford just gave Dan Guerrero five good reasons not to let him go, chief among them 6-foot-8 Indianapolis guard Kris Wilkes, who Alford gushes about in the video above. It’s not uncommon for incoming players to be released from their letters of intent should the coach that signed them be fired. UCLA brought in a pair of five-star players, two four-star players and the lone three-star recruit is the first of Lonzo Ball’s two brothers bound for UCLA.

The 2016 class isn’t looking too shabby either. A school-record 18 3-pointers in the season-opener was followed by an impressive second-half performance for opposite reasons in a 102-87 win on Sunday. But any expectations should be severely tempered given that the opponents thus far have been Pacific and CSUN.

Links:

  • UCLA’s defense will be on display Thursday against San Diego
  • Lonzo Ball is the most interesting player in college basketball
  • Video: Alford on the most important piece of the ’17 recruiting class
  • Video: Alford on philosophy change in Sunday’s win over CSUN
  • Video: Alford on up-tempo style attracting recruits to UCLA
  • From espn.com: Alford embarks on make-or-break season at UCLA
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