Can UCLA get a marquee win against No. 9 Gonzaga?

UCLA hosts No. 9 Gonzaga tonight at 7:05 p.m., the first part of a tough five-game stretch that will tell everyone a lot more about what type of team Steve Alford has on his hands.

Kenpom.com currently projects the Bruins losing all five: to the Bulldogs (44% win probability), No. 1 Kentucky (12%), Alabama (44%), Colorado (44%) and Utah (27%). The latter four games are all away from Pauley Pavilion.

» Can UCLA handle Gonzaga’s big men, Przemek Karnowski (7-1, 288) and Domantas Sabonis (6-10, 231)?
» Mark Whicker looks back at UCLA’s memorable Sweet Sixteen win over Gonzaga in 2006, the last time the two teams met.
» Freshman Kevon Looney has been a consistent force inside for UCLA, and is one double-double short of the national lead.

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UCLA basketball announces 2014-15 season schedule

UCLA starts its 2014-15 basketball season on Nov. 14, but the real fun doesn’t begin until two weeks later.

After a four-game homestand at Pauley Pavilion against Montana State, Coastal Carolina, Nicholls State and Long Beach State — none of which ranked top 150 in RPI last season — the Bruins head to the Bahamas for a star-studded nonconference tournament.

The Battle 4 Atlantis on Thanksgiving week is the type of heavyweight competition that second-year head coach Steve Alford has openly pined for since arriving in Los Angeles. Matchups haven’t been finalized for the three-game slate, but UCLA is in a field that includes Florida, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Georgetown, Butler, Oklahoma and Alabama-Birmingham (UAB).

The Gators and the Badgers both made the Final Four this past season, while the Tar Heels and the Hoyas are among the sports bluebloods — even if neither team has been as formidable in recent years.

But UCLA will only host one major nonconference opponent: Gonzaga, whom the Bruins last faced in 2006′s all-time Sweet Sixteen thriller. The Bulldogs visit Pauley Pavilion on Dec. 13 to start a home-and-home series.

That’s followed by a huge Dec. 20 game against national runner-up Kentucky at the United Center as part of the CBS Sports Classic.

The Bruins will open Pac-12 play with five of their first seven games on the road, starting with a trip to Utah and Colorado on the Jan. 2-4 weekend. They will travel to Arizona and Arizona State on Feb. 18-22, but will not host either due to the conference’s schedule rotation.

Nonconference single-game tickets will go on sale Wednesday at uclabruins.com/tickets, while Pac-12 single-game tickets go on sale Oct. 1.

UCLA’s full schedule below: Continue reading

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UCLA announces dates of Gonzaga home-and-home series

UCLA officially announced the dates of its upcoming home-and-home basketball series against Gonzaga.

The Bruins will host the Bulldogs at Pauley Pavilion on Dec. 13, 2014 — part of head coach Steve Alford’s efforts to beef up the team’s nonconference slate. UCLA will visit Spokane on Dec. 12, 2015, though that game could be moved to another December date.

Gonzaga athletic director Mike Roth first announced the series last month.

The two teams last played each other on March 23, 2006, in one of the most memorable Sweet Sixteen matchups ever. The Bulldogs last visited Pauley Pavilion in 1999.

The Bruins’ nonconference schedule also includes a game against Kentucky on Dec. 20, part of the inaugural CBS Sports Classic at Chicago’s United Center.

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Q&A: Darren Collison talks NBA, the UCLA coaching change and his favorite college memory

Since leaving UCLA as a three-time all-conference point guard, Darren Collison has carved out what looks to be a promising pro career. Now 25, the former Bruin made the All-Rookie team in 2010 after the New Orleans Hornets drafted him 21st overall, and is a restricted free agent after averaging 12 points and 5.1 assists in his fourth season.

He returned to the Los Angeles area recently, where he’s been busy with interviews as well as preparing his youth basketball camp. I talked to him this week about his season with the Dallas Mavericks, his thoughts on Ben Howland and Steve Alford, as well as a UCLA flashback.

Q: What have you been up to this summer?

I’ve just been chillin’ at my parents house in the Inland Empire. I actually started working out a little bit earlier than usual. I watch every (playoff) game. Every game. I told myself that I wouldn’t, because we didn’t make the playoffs, but I’ve been glued to that TV. Oh yeah, by far. I realized how tough it is. I missed the playoffs my first year, but after being in the playoffs my next two years, it made me miss it.

Q: What was your favorite series?

My favorite series would definitely be the Warriors and San Antonio. Or Warriors and Denver. The Warriors were just an incredible team in the playoffs. I definitely had fun watching them.

Q: What was your first year in Dallas like after playing in Indiana? Continue reading

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Mike Moser to Oregon; Allerik Freeman to Baylor

A pair of former Bruins found new homes today.

Most notable in the Pac-12 landscape is Mike Moser, who reportedly committed 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.

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