UCLA Bruins (22-3)
- Latest BTD Pac-12 Power Rankings: 3rd Overall (9-3)
- Head Coach: Steve Alford (4th Season)
- Top Performer: T.J. Leaf (16.7 PPG, 8.8 RPG)
- Points For: 92.5 PPG (1st)
- Points Against: 76.6 PPG (280th)
- Last Game/Streak: 82-79 Win v. Oregon (3W)
Another game comes and goes for the Beavers, as Oregon State’s harsh reality of likely becoming the worst team in the history of the Corvallis-based basketball program continues to set in more-and-more by the minute. With just six conference games left on the slate (and only a home meeting with Colorado looking promising), it just may be coming Beaver nation. What a long, strange trip it’s been from last year’s NCAA Tournament birth.
Some optimists had belief that the Beavers road trip to USC could’ve been a promising moment for this team, as the Trojans were a red-hot squad, who were likely to undermine a struggling Oregon State group with a meeting with Oregon on the horizon. Then, USC just picked apart the Beavers defense at will and well, now here we are again. At this point, bring on UCLA. How much worse could it be?
It’s scary to think just what the Bruins may do if they can get going on one of their “nights” against Oregon State, because not only is Steve Alford’s group the best pure offensive team in the country, they also have six players (yes, six) who average double-figures in scoring on a nightly basis, led by talented freshman forward T.J. Leaf (16.7 PPG). Leaf, who is also the team’s leading rebounder as well, is then followed in the stat-sheet by senior guard and coach’s son, Bryce Alford (16.2 PPG), as well as freshman phenom, Lonzo Ball (15.1 PPG). Both Alford and Ball, are excitable, high-volume scorers who can get going at just about any moment from just about any spot on the court. I think Ball’s absolutely ruthless step-back three-pointer against Oregon can attest to that.
(It’s okay to watch...it’s against Oregon)
Rounding out the double-digit crew is the steady presence of guards Isaac Hamilton (14.5 PPG) and Aaron Holiday (13.5 PPG), who are the slow-churners in the Bruins’ high-octane scoring machine. Junior forward Thomas Welsh (10.5 PPG) has been the key second-option that UCLA has needed on the interior, who works hard to be a dual-threat of scoring and rebounding for this group. While the Bruins are not necessarily a deep team at all (they play only eight guys on an average night), role players like forwards Ike Anigbogu (4.7 PPG) and Gyorgy Goloman (3.5 PPG) have also had their moments as well, including Anigbogu pitching in 9 points and 7 rebounds in the team’s most-recent win over the Ducks.
To think about what it will take for Oregon State to steal this one against the Bruins will probably involves some sort of planetary alignment or other-worldly factor which will need to intervene with any kind of conventional basketball wisdom and even then, Oregon State is still probably a longshot to actually pull off this upset. While we always keep the faith here at BTD, the reality of immortality is sitting less than a month away for the Beavers and the room for error is fading fast. The Beavers need to alter their fate somehow and they need to do it sooner, rather than later. A big effort against one of the top teams in the land in UCLA could go a long way for this Oregon State group.
Players To Watch
Lonzo Ball (Freshman - Guard)
There’s nothing to say about Lonzo Ball that hasn’t been said before, or can’t be explained by his top draft pick projection for this year’s NBA Draft. Simply put, there’s a case to be made constantly that Ball is the best player in all of college basketball. His late-game heroics secured a crucial win against Oregon and he’s never short on making the big-time plays for his team in vastly important situations.
Bryce Alford (Senior - Guard)
Before these talented group of freshman arrived on campus, Alford was slated to be the star of this team (who without guys like Ball and Leaf around), would likely be averaging near 20 points a night. However, Alford’s new role, as a spark-plug/sharpshooter, has served his team better, as this program has gone from a swirl of chaos a season ago to one of the country’s most challenging teams to match-up with. Alford’s maturity through all of these changes has been vital.
T.J. Leaf (Freshman - Forward)
The scariest thing about Leaf may be the fact that at the end of the day, no matter how overlooked he usually is, he is still the leading scorer on the best offensive team in the country and that’s gotta be worth something. He’s also the team’s best rebounder, and the guy (who before Ball or Alford takes over) that can carry them through stretches. One way or another, look for Leaf to fill the stat-sheet in this one.