Fans who enjoyed Vegas during the Pac-12 Tournament won’t have to wait until March to visit again.
UCLA officially announced today that it will play in the 13th annual Las Vegas Invitational on Nov. 28 and 29. The Orleans Arena will host the Bruins, Nevada, Northwestern and Missouri. UCLA also has a nonconference game scheduled against the Tigers.
The regional round will take place the weekend prior, with UCLA hosting two teams. Those matchups will be against Chattanooga, IUPUI, Morehead State or Gardner-Webb.
For a little over a week, Jermaine Curtis got a taste of his dream. The former UCLA third baseman and All-Pac-10 honorable mention was called up to the St. Louis Cardinals on April 26, after the team placed Matt Adams on the 15-day disabled list.
The 25-year-old took just two at-bats until he was sent back down to Triple-A Memphis on Sunday, but expressed nothing but excitement during his first major-league stint. Curtis’ career hasn’t unfolded the way he imagined when he left UCLA early in 2008 as a fifth-round draft pick. He was ranked the No. 31 prospect in the organization, and was even demoted to Double-A a year ago.
I caught up with him over the weekend for a look at the life of a ballplayer on the edge of the majors and minors.
Q: What was it like finally getting called up?
It’s been amazing, seeing basically baseball heaven. Talking to future Hall of Famers such as Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday. I haven’t been able to play much, but I’ve learned a lot. It’s something I take to heart a lot. Continue reading →
Most notable in the Pac-12 landscape is Mike Moser, who reportedlycommitted to Oregon as a graduate transfer out of UNLV. The 6-foot-8 forward played less than five minutes per game at UCLA in 2009-10 before heading to Las Vegas. With the Runnin’ Rebels, he averaged 14 points and 10.5 rebounds as a sophomore before a disappointing junior year — one that saw his minutes reduced due to both injury and the role of star freshman Anthony Bennett.
Moser will graduate from UNLV and play immediately for the Ducks, who lost three seniors from their Pac-12 tournament-winning squad. He also considered Gonzaga and Washington.
Freshman guard Allerik Freeman, who signed a national letter of intent with UCLA in November, is heading to Baylor after being released from his commitment two weeks ago. Freeman was the highest-ranked uncommitted recruit after No. 1 prospect Andrew Wiggins.
Can UCLA’s defensive front survive the loss of a first-round pick — the team’s first since 2006? Cassius Marsh, pegged as a third-round talent in some early projections, now succeeds new Green Bay Packer Datone Jones as the Bruins’ best defensive end. By most observations, he’s matured since 2011, a year that saw him storm out of spring practice and later suspended two games for an October brawl at Arizona.
“Sometimes, he may stop on that line, but not over it,” said defensive line coach Angus McClure. “I call it a ‘controlled insanity.’ You want to go to that line but you don’t want to go over it. Certainly, he’s learned to manage it.”
The rest of the line, however, is a muddled with injuries. Owamagbe Odighizuwa and Ellis McCarthy both sat out spring while rehabbing from their respective hip and knee surgeries, while nose tackle Brandon Tualiaupupu tore his ACL in mid-April. Continue reading →
Chris Burke is higher on Hundley than anyone else listed here, and is also lower on Barr — whom he calls a potential “Von Miller-type” should he be drafted by a 4-3 team. The analyst does hedge a bit on the No. 20: “Odds are, in the long run, that Barr might be off the board well before this next April.” Continue reading →
Running back Craig Lee has received an ACT score that qualifies him to attend UCLA, according to Edward Lewis of BruinSportsReport. The four-star recruit probably won’t make too much of a dent in the Bruins’ backfield committee this upcoming season, but his arrival bodes well for the position’s future. The 6-foot, 188-pound back rushed for 20 touchdowns and over 1,700 yards as a senior, and was rated top-25 nationally at his position by Rivals.com.
And early UCLA commit, Lee had decided not to sign his letter of intent until qualifying test scores arrived.
Be happy that you have one of the best quarterbacks in the conference. Brett Hundley isn’t flawless, but not many players in the country have the same level of tantalizing potential. (I don’t think he’ll leave, but if Hundley declares for the 2014 draft, SI already has him as the No. 8 pick.)
A superlative freshman campaign — 3,745 yards, 29 touchdowns against 11 picks — proved that the 6-foot-3 dual threat is the quarterback the Bruins have long sought. Perhaps the biggest knock on him was his decision-making, whether that meant not throwing the ball away when he needed to or not sliding at the right time. In spring, he looked like he corrected some of that, drawing cheers from his teammates once when he slid on a scramble.
He also took 52 sacks last season — second-most in college football, and something that did start to affect him later in the fall. Continue reading →
Q: What are realistic expectations for the football team this year?
I think double-digit wins and another Pac-12 South title are both very much attainable. I’ll wait and see how the running back committee and offensive line develop before picking UCLA for the Rose Bowl though. The secondary could be noticeably better than it was last season, if the freshmen are as good as expected and guys like Anthony Jefferson and Ishmael Adams can build on what they showed in spring.
Q: Who looks to be the leader to be the main running back this year or will it by committee? Whatever happened to Craig Lee the running back recruit who was retaking his SATs?
UCLA will definitely use a committee, but if you had to pick someone right now, it’d be Jordon James. Still, I doubt anyone gets more than 10-12 carries per game. Craig Lee is still trying to get a high enough score on his SAT.
Q: Is Steve Manfro injured? I’ve not noticed any news about him this spring. Continue reading →
Comment with questions, and I’ll post answers on Monday. I’ll have a post-spring look at the football team up tomorrow too. Thinking of scaling this back to bi-weekly as we enter the summer, but let me know if you would prefer the weekly schedule.
– Brett Hundley looked sharp, completing 16 of 23 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown. He did take three sacks, however, which is mildly concerning considering that Jim Mora admitted the team did “basically nothing” in terms of defensive schemes. That said, the offensive line only has seven bodies right now.
Quarterbacks coach Taylor Mazzone said the 52 sacks Hundley took started to affect him late last season, as he got a slight case of “happy feet.” He’s up to 230 pounds and down to 8 percent body fat, which should help.
– Cornerback Marcus Rios is out for the season with a rare fungal infection. He told the LA Times that the infection started in his sinus, but then reached behind his eye and brain in what sounds like something out of “Contagion.” He added that only 12 people have ever had it, and eight died. He didn’t say exactly what the infection was, so I’m not sure how true that is or if his case is as serious. Best wishes to him. Continue reading →