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UCLA Bruins Game Preview/Open Thread

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The Huskies look to keep up their road magic and sweep the L.A road trip

NCAA Basketball: Washington State at UCLA Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The Essentials

Date: Sunday, 12/31/17

Tip-Off Time: 5:00pm PST

TV: Pac-12 Network

Radio: KOMO 1000

Location: Los Angeles, California

Betting Line: UCLA -9

UCLA 2017-18 Statistics:

Record: 10-3

Points For per Game: 83.8 ppg (26th)

Points Against per Game: 76.5 ppg (240th)

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 112 (41st)

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 98.9 (84th)

Strength of Schedule: 131st

UCLA Key Players:

C- Thomas Welsh, Sr. 7’0, 255: 13.1ppg, 10.9rpg, 1.2bpg, 47.8% FG, 88.2% FT, 40% 3pt

Welsh continues to be the master of the 15-foot baseline jumper but he’s extended his range out to the 3-point line as well. His rate stats are fairly similar to past years but he’s playing an extra 10 minutes per game this season.

F- Gyorgy Goloman, Jr. 6’11, 225: 7.2ppg, 5.0rpg, 1.6apg, 52.2% FG, 56.7% FT, 28.6% 3pt

G.G is a solid big for UCLA who doesn’t require his own offense and generally does the right thing. He can dunk it close to the basket and doesn’t turn the ball over but can struggle with defensive rebounding for a player his size.

F- Kris Wilkes, Fr. 6’8, 195: 12.5ppg, 5.8rpg, 1.2apg, 42.9% FG, 58.6% FT, 27.5% 3pt

Wilkes was a 5-star recruit for the Bruins and has mostly lived up to expectations. He’s not a great shooter so if the Huskies can keep him on the perimeter then it will be hard for him to hurt the Dawgs on that end since his strength is drawing fouls driving.

G- Jaylen Hands, So. 6’3, 175: 12.8ppg, 4.2rpg, 2.8apg, 47.3% FG, 72.2% FT, 47.9% 3pt

Hands was advertised as the successor to Lonzo Ball but those comparisons were always unfair. He’s much more of a combo guard whose best attribute has been his ability to make shots playing off the ball.

G- Aaron Holiday, Jr. 6’1, 185: 18.8ppg, 4.1rpg, 5.5apg, 47.1% FG, 81.2% FT, 36.6% 3pt

Holiday has elevated his game and been the guy for UCLA. His shooting has dropped a little bit as a primary ball handler but his assists have gone up and turnovers down as he does it all for the Bruins.

The Outlook

Last year’s Bruins team was a destructive supernova on offense and it was easy to point to a team identity. This year’s squad is amorphous. They don’t really excel at any one thing but they also don’t have any major weaknesses. One thing UCLA has going for them is their size. They play a 7-8 man rotation and 5 of those players are 6’8 or taller while Holiday is the shortest at 6’1. That could present problems for a UW zone that relies on its length to obscure passing lanes and can struggle with opposing size.

On offense the Bruins have a balanced scoring attack with four players at 12.5+ points per game and every rotation player attempting at least 1 3-pointer per game on average. Yet none of their players has attempted more 3-pointers than 2-pointers so they don’t just bomb it away from the outside and there’s no assigned long bomber. Their shooting and turnover percentages are all good to average but they aren’t exceptional at anything except not getting their shots blocked.

There are bigger holes on the defensive end although not quite as many. They really struggle to create turnovers (333rd out of 351) so Washington will have the chance to win the turnover battle if they play within themselves. Their height means they don’t give up offensive rebounds, they block a lot of shots, and they defend inside pretty well. Per Synergy Sports, their 2 best defensive play types are against isolation and post-ups while they struggle going around screens and against spot up shooters. Exactly what you’d expect for a big and less agile team.

UCLA seems like it matches up quite well against the Huskies. There are 2 main x-factors. As will always be the case for Washington, the refs will play a big role. If Noah Dickerson can put 2 early fouls on Welsh or G.G then it opens things up the inside game. However, it looks like UW will have to play outside in this game which is not their strength. Dominic Green stepped up against USC but the second factor is that someone for the Huskies will need to have a great shooting night. This would be a great time for Crisp to catch fire and hit 5 3’s or for Nahziah Carter and Hameir Wright to hit 2 each. The hope is that Washington will react better coming off a big win than they did following Kansas but I don’t know if a sweep of the L.A schools on the road is quite realistic yet. However, if we do pull it off then I give everyone permission to lose their minds and start thinking NCAA tourney.

Prediction

Washington Huskies- 75, UCLA Bruins- 81

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