UCLA close to scheduling home-and-home series with Kentucky

UCLA men’s basketball just suffered its first loss of the season, dropping a 75-65 decision to Oklahoma today. After debuting in the Associated Press poll at No. 22 on Monday, the Bruins’ stay could be short-lived if it loses to fifth-ranked North Carolina tomorrow as the Battle 4 Atlantis continues in the Bahamas.

This team has talent, if not depth, but there’s a reason Steve Alford preached patience before the start of the season. It will take time for him to coach the team up to where he wants it to be.

But under Alford’s long-term philosophy, it’s these early games against top teams that will make UCLA a tougher program. The second-year head coach told ESPN on Wednesday that the Bruins are close to finalizing a home-and-home series with Kentucky, which has become a perennial title contender under John Calipari. The series would start in 2015 at Pauley Pavilion, then conclude at Rupp Arena the following year.

UCLA already has a game against the No. 1 Wildcats on Dec. 20 at the United Center in Chicago, as part of the CBS Sports Classic.

Since being hired in 2013, Alford has not been shy about his desire to schedule big-time nonconference opponents. The Bruins have a home-and-home against Gonzaga this year and the next, and are currently playing in a tournament that features three other ranked teams.

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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 December game against Kentucky at United Center

UCLA officially announced that it will play Kentucky at Chicago’s United Center on Dec. 20, setting up a marquee matchup against John Calipari’s national runner-up Wildcats.

Part of the CBS Sports Classic, the game will tip off at approximately 12:30 p.m. PT and be broadcast on — naturally — CBS. The event was first reported by the Columbus Dispatch in March.

Also part of the rotating doubleheader are North Carolina and Ohio State, who will play at 10 a.m. PT. Continue reading

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UCLA basketball schedules December game against Kentucky

Even before UCLA’s season began, Steve Alford has insisted that he wants to schedule tough, marquee opponents going forward — something he had little control over his first season.

“I’ve never been somebody that’s hid from opponents,” Alford said more than three months ago.

After squeezing in a game against Duke last winter, he continues backing that up. According to the Columbus Dispatch, the Bruins will face Kentucky in December at the United Center in Chicago. Continue reading

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