Who will win the Pac-12 in 2015?

The Pac-12 will release its annual media poll tomorrow morning, as voted on by the numerous men and women who cover the conference and its teams.

In the meantime, the league has also opened up voting to fans this year. You can make your picks for both the Pac-12 North and South at Pac-12.com.

My picks in the media poll were … Continue reading

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UCLA football 2015 season preview: UNLV Rebels

UCLA Bruins at UNLV Rebels
Saturday, Sept. 12 | Sam Boyd Stadium
7:30 p.m. PT, CBS Sports Network

The skinny: The optimist might say that UNLV made one of the offseason’s most daring moves. The cynic might say that the Rebels are throwing anything against the wall to see if it sticks.

High school experience can be an invaluable foundation to a coaching career. Baylor’s Art Briles bounced around Texas high schools for two decades before his first college job. Auburn’s Gus Malzahn did the same in Arkansas for almost 15 years. Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze was once best known for being Michael Oher’s coach at Briarcrest Christian in Memphis.

But none of them jumped directly from preps to become the head coach of an FBS program. On that path, UNLV’s Tony Sanchez is preceded by just three others: Todd Dodge (North Texas), Gerry Faust (Notre Dame), and Bob Commings (Iowa). That trio combined for a 54-100-1 record at those respective schools. Dodge, who was with the Mean Green from 2007-10, is the only one who was still coaching by the time most of today’s college players were born.

Still, Sanchez has an advantage that those three other men didn’t: He is extraordinarily well connected, particularly with a moneyed crowd that poured resources into making Bishop Gorman a powerhouse prep program. Continue reading

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UCLA to open Maui Invitational against UNLV

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UCLA last won the Maui Invitational in 2006. Doing so again this year would be a big statement for Steve Alford.

The eight-team tournament will signal the Bruins’ first significant competition of the season, starting with UNLV on Nov. 23 at 8:30 pm PT (ESPN2). The Runnin’ Rebels have regressed under head coach Dave Rice — missing the NCAA tournament the last two years — but still have a talented roster that includes five-star center Stephen Zimmerman.

After that game, UCLA will face either Kansas or Chaminade the next day. The other side of the tournament bracket consists of St. John’s, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest and Indiana.

“You get a really good litmus test right away,” Alford said. “You get a really good feel from a coaching standpoint, playing three games in a row against quality opponents. You’re going to get a really good idea and picture of who your team is going into December.” Continue reading

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UCLA baseball hires LMU’s Bryant Ward as assistant coach

UCLA baseball has hired Bryant Ward away from Loyola Marymount, filling in a spot on its staff that opened a month ago.

Ward will serve as the Bruins’ assistant coach and recruiting coordinator, overseeing the infield and hitting instruction the same way T.J. Bruce did for the past five years. Bruce, a tenacious recruiter, took Nevada’s head coaching job in late June.

Ward appears to be cast out of a similar mold. At LMU, he helped pull in a top-25 recruiting class in 2011, the school’s first in 15 years — and replicated the feat two years later. The East Carolina alum also coached previously at the University of South Florida and Cal State Fullerton.

His two-year tenure with the Titans (2005-06) put him on the same staff as former UCLA assistant Rick Vanderhook, who just completed his fourth season as CSUF head coach.

“We are very excited about Bryant joining the program,” UCLA head coach John Savage said in a statement. “He is a dedicated coach who excels at teaching infielders and is an outstanding recruiter. He will bring tremendous passion and energy to the program.”

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