The UCLA basketball team will play at USC on the final day of the 2017-18 regular season, a game that could have large implications. (Thomas Cordova SCNG)
The Pac-12 conference basketball schedule released Thursday revealed both good and bad for UCLA.
Logistically, the Bruins can be thrilled with the stroke of luck that landed Arizona on their schedule just once in the regular season. The Wildcats could be a preseason No. 1 team in the country and avoiding a second meeting could be the difference in winning a conference championship. For example, Arizona and Oregon played each other just once last season, while UCLA had to play each twice, a fate that probably cost it a share of the conference title.
The timing of UCLA’s matchups with USC, which could form the top tier in the Pac-12 along with Arizona and UCLA, isn’t particularly favorable for the Bruins.
UCLA plays at USC in the final game of the regular season, where a more talented Bruins team than the 2017-18 version wilted in its worst performance of last season. UCLA’s first matchup with USC will be the final game of the first round of Pac-12 play and precedes the week it plays at Arizona and against Oregon in Pauley Pavilion, its toughest stretch of conference play.
UCLA can take some solace in its young team being able to ease into conference play by hosting the Washington schools to open Pac-12 play and visiting Cal and Stanford the next week. Last season, by comparison, UCLA opened with a last-second loss at eventual conference co-champion Oregon and its second road trip was the Colorado-Utah combination that only two programs have emerged from unscathed in Pac-12 history.
Lonzo Ball is the favorite to win NBA Rookie of the Year next season. (Frank Franklin II/AP)
Despite competition including two No. 1 overall picks, former UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball has the best odds to win the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award next season.
The No. 2 overall pick of the Lakers at Thursday’s NBA draft was given 5/2 odds to win the award by oddsmaker Bovada. Ben Simmons, the 2016 No. 1 overall pick who missed all of last season due to injury, has 3/1 odds and is followed by 76ers teammate Markelle Fultz, the 2017 No. 1 overall pick at 5/1 odds.
2017-2018 NBA Rookie of the Year – Odds to Win
Lonzo Ball, Lakers (UCLA) – 5/2
Ben Simmons, 76ers (LSU) – 3/1
Markelle Fultz, 76ers (Washington) – 5/1
De’Aaron Fox, Kings (Kentucky) – 7/1
Josh Jackson, Suns (Kansas) – 9/1
Jayson Tatum, Celtics (Duke) – 9/1
Jonathan Isaac, Magic (Florida State) – 16/1
Malik Monk, Hornets (Kentucky) – 16/1
Dennis Smith, Mavericks (NC State) – 16/1
Bryce Alford was the most athletically disadvantaged of UCLA’s eight rotation players last season. He was the weakest on defense. He had the most trouble driving to the basket – he shot 46 percent at the rim, 18 percent less than the closest UCLA player.
But the 6-foot-3, 185-pound guard may find his way onto an NBA roster because his strength is the fastest-rising commodity in the league. Alford shot 43 percent from 3-point range his last season at UCLA. And as far as volume is concerned, he set the school’s single-season and career record for 3-pointers, surpassing the marks of nine-year NBA veteran Jason Kapono.
Alford has been invited to his share of workouts approaching Thursday’s NBA draft, including by both the Lakers and Clippers, and the Pacers from his native Indiana.
Alford’s assessment of his chances to be one of the 60 draft picks? He is right on the edge, meaning he could be one of the 60 or he may not. He was clear about where he wanted to end up.
“My dream has been the NBA my whole life,” Alford said following his workout with the Pacers. “I’ve never been interested in going over seas. That would be a plan C, plan D kind of thing. If I had to spend a year in the D League that would be fine. Or if I had to spend a year overseas to get a shot that way, whatever it takes for me to get to the NBA, that’s what I’m going to do.” Continue reading “Is Bryce Alford a good enough shooter to be NBA material?” »