How I voted in the AP college basketball poll: UCLA 17th

Somehow the Associated Press trusted me to be one of the 65 voters in the AP men’s college basketball poll this season. After the poll is released each week, I’ll post how I voted, highlight a few teams and explain why I slotted them where I did. Here is the first edition.

How I voted:
1. Duke
It feels like the typical choice is between a roster full of one-and-done players OR one with veteran college players. In Duke’s case this season, they have both. As evidenced by the 58 first-place votes, Duke is an easy No. 1 selection for this first-time voter.
2. Kentucky
3. Villanova
4. Oregon
I saw Oregon play in the Elite 8 in Anaheim last year and I’m a believer. With virtually all of those players back this season, they’ve got all the components a well-rounded college basketball team needs: shooting, length inside, leadership. I think he has all the tools, but I’m not 100 percent sold on Dillon Brooks being one of the best players in college basketball – yet. Continue reading

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UCLA basketball links: Bruins to open 2017-18 season in China

Freshman Lonzo Ball will make his regular season debut tonight for No. 16 UCLA

Freshman Lonzo Ball will make his regular season debut tonight for No. 16 UCLA

Next year at this time, the UCLA basketball team will be about 6,500 miles from Westwood. The Pac-12 announced Friday morning that UCLA will open the 2017-18 season in China against Georgia Tech.

“One of the reasons you come to UCLA is to play big games on the biggest stage,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said. “I’d say playing in the largest country in the world against a tremendous ACC program like Georgia Tech qualifies as a pretty big stage.”

In the 2016 edition of the Pac-12 China Game, Stanford and Harvard tip-off their seasons at 8 p.m. tonight in Shanghai. Next season will mark UCLA’s second trip to China in five years after playing a series of exhibition games in Beijing and Shanghai in August of 2012.

Touted freshmen Lonzo Ball and T.J. Leaf make their regular season debut tonight as the No. 16 Bruins open their season at Pauley Pavilion against Pacific at 6 p.m.

Season preview links:

  • Steve Alford is loosening the reins this season despite his hot seat
  • UCLA’s defensive concerns among five things to watch this season
  • UCLA’s five most important games of the season, including the program’s first-ever trip to Rupp Arena.
  • Men’s basketball full 2016-17 season schedule
  • A glance at UCLA’s competition in the Pac-12, including Oregon, Arizona
  • The No. 9 UCLA women are aiming for the Final Four
  • The five most important games for the UCLA women begin Monday at No. 2 Baylor
  • Women’s basketball full 2016-17 season schedule
  • A glance at the rest of the Pac-12 women’s basketball teams
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  • UCLA basketball lands eerily similar top 5 recruiting class

    UCLA gained recruiting momentum when it landed the best class of the Steve Alford era last year. But the who knew the Bruins were being so efficient?

    UCLA was working on both classes at the same time considering its 2017 recruiting haul includes high school teammates – and in one case, a blood relative – of each of the three players from the 2016 class. Most importantly, the caliber of talent is similar too.

    On the first day of the early signing period, the Bruins’ signed the No. 3 recruiting class in the country, according to espn.com. And that doesn’t include the potential addition of five-star small forward Kris Wilkes, an Indiana native expected to choose the UCLA over Indiana and Illinois. Rivals.com and scout.com rated UCLA’s haul the fourth-best in the nation.

    The headliner is freshman T.J. Leaf’s former teammate, point guard Jaylen Hands of El Cajon Foothills Christian, rivals.com’s No. 26 prospect. Ike Anigbogu’s former running mate in the front court at Corona Centennial High, Jalen Hill, is the espn.com’s No. 50 recruit and Lonzo Ball’s brother, LiAngelo, is a 3-star shooting guard from Chino Hills High. Chatsworth Sierra Canyon power forward Cody Riley, scout.com’s No. 30 prospect, is the fourth member of the class and one of the best rebounders in the country.

    Jalen Hands
    Point guard
    Foothills Christian High School, El Cajon, Calif.
    Height: 6-foot-3
    Weight: 170
    Rivals.com: No. 26 overall
    Continue reading

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    UCLA basketball links: Lonzo Ball, TJ Leaf lead dunk-fest in debut

    If last night’s exhibition game is any indication, the UCLA basketball team is going to be fun to watch. How many victories the new-look, fast-paced Bruins will augment their entertaining style with is very much to be determined.

    But Lonzo Ball alone may be enough to begin to fill Pauley Pavilion again. The freshman point guard (14 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists) was must-see in every facet – he had a spectacular block, a tip-dunk, and was on both ends of ally-oops, to name a few highlights. “I think you saw a little bit of how much Lonzo can impact the game in every single way,” senior Bryce Alford said.

    But it was classmate T.J. Leaf who led the dunk-fest with four authoritative throw downs. The 6-10 freshman was hardly overshadowed with 19 points and 12 rebounds in just 20 minutes.

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    UCLA basketball loses one third of prized recruiting class for 4-6 weeks

    One of the three members of the UCLA basketball team’s prized recruiting class won’t make his debut with the other two.

    Freshman center Ike Anigbogu tore his right meniscus during practice last week and scout.com’s No. 17 recruit in the class of 2016 will miss four to six weeks after undergoing surgery on Tuesday. The tear is small enough that UCLA is hopeful for a return before Thanksgiving, in which case he would only miss the first four games of the season: Pacific, Can State Northridge, San Diego and Long Beach State.

    On a team loaded with offensive talent, the 6-foot-10, 250-pound Anigbogu is the most imposing defensive presence. There isn’t another player on the UCLA roster in the mold of a rim protector who plays such a physical style.

    “He’s a big body and we can pressure up more because we know Ike is in the back cleaning up shots and getting rebounds,” senior guard Isaac Hamilton said. “He’s going to be a huge key to our success.” Continue reading

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