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UCLA Bruins Open Thread & How to Watch

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The Huskies open up conference play against the badly struggling Bruins

NCAA Basketball: UCLA at North Carolina Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Essentials

Date: Thursday, 1/2/19

Tip-Off Time: 7:00 pm PT

TV: FS1

Radio: KOMO 1000

Streaming: Foxsportsgo.com

Location: Seattle, Washington

Betting line: Washington -7.5

UCLA 2019-20 Statistics:

Record: 7-6 (1-0 against Non-D1 schools)

Points For per Game: 69.5 ppg (170th)

Points Against per Game: 72.4 ppg (135th)

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 105.0 (79th)

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 101.9 (200th)

Strength of Schedule: 244th overall

UCLA Key Players:

C- Jalen Hill, So. 6’10, 245: 9.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 1.2 bpg, 54.4% FG, 69.4% FT

Hill will be the most difficult matchup for Isaiah Stewart since the Gonzaga game. He has the size and athleticism to at least stand a chance of defending Stewart and is surprisingly not very foul prone. On offense Hill is unlikely to take a shot from outside the paint and does all of his damage either posting up, cutting to the rim for a dunk, or getting put back attempts.

F- Cody Riley, So. 6’9, 250: 10.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.2 apg, 53.5% FG, 0% 3pt, 48.5% FT

Riley has tried to transition to being a stretch 4 but it’s not exactly working. He’s just 7 for 29 on jump shots outside the paint this season so the Huskies will generally be content to leave him open if he wants to shoot. Although he is 5 of 9 on straight away shots from the free throw line so that could punish the UW zone. He’s also an above average offensive rebounder so expect him to end up with 3+ second possessions for the Bruins.

F- Chris Smith, Jr. 6’9, 215: 11.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.8 apg, 44.1% FG, 30.8% 3pt, 90.5% FT

Smith is the leading scorer of this incredibly balanced UCLA team. He’s seen the kind of incremental linear growth from his freshman season to his junior that you’d want as a Bruins fan and is now a knockdown foul shooter at 6’9. He does most of his damage in transition or as a jump shooter but still is able to take the ball to the basket if he has to. Smith vs. McDaniels will be an interesting matchup.

G- Prince Ali, Sr. 6’4, 195: 9.6 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.4 apg, 38.9% FG, 19.0% 3pt, 73.3% FT

Ali is the lone senior on this team and a 5th year one at that after an ACL tear earlier in his college career. He entered the season as a career 34% 3-pt shooter but has been atrocious from deep this year. You’d think that at some point he has to break out of his slump. Ali is still a very capable on-ball defender and can take the ball inside to get fouled but Washington will let him shoot it until he proves his head is back in it. He’s finished with a 3-pt % for the game below 25% in 10 of their 13 contests.

G- Tyger Campbell, Fr. 5’11, 180: 8.6 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 4.2 apg, 43.2% FG, 36.1% 3pt, 71.9% FT

Campbell was expected to be the starting PG for UCLA last year before tearing his ACL in the preseason. He looks just about fully recovered and has generally been one of the few bright spots. Campbell had 18 points and 9 assists against just 1 turnover in UCLA’s last game even though they still lost. He’s the team’s leading ball handler and their best shooter so if Washington can contain Campbell on the perimeter it will shut down the Bruin offense.

2019-20 UCLA Shot Chart

Synergy Sports

Maybe it’s intentional on the part of UCLA to try to get the shot chart to match the baby blue of their uniforms and if that’s the case then I support the decision. It’s probably not surprising that a team with 3 starters at 6’9 or above, 2 of whom haven’t made a 3-pointer, struggles from behind the arc. There is the potential for the Huskies to get hit with that midrange jumper on the right side of the court which is exactly where Tennessee bludgeoned the Dawgs to death in that game. Otherwise the primary focus will be keeping the ball from getting inside to Hill and Riley.

The Outlook

Washington is coming off a tough loss in the Diamond Head Classic final against Houston but luckily for them they get to ease into Pac-12 play. A home game against UCLA is probably the 3rd easiest game remaining on the schedule. The Bruins made the change to Mick Cronin who had a sustained decade of performance at Cincinnati but the Bearcats’ identity was always that of a bruising defensive team built on toughness and grit. Unsurprisingly, there has been a ton of culture shock for UCLA whose previous calling card was run and gun offense-only flash.

It’s been evident that Cronin is still trying to figure out which players fit his envisioned system because he’s had liberal rotations. 10 different UCLA players have played more than 20% of the team’s minutes (it’s 6 for Washington). That has led to a very balanced lineup with 7 players scoring at least 7 points per game. It also has probably made it hard for players to get into a groove and establish roles.

Cronin’s Cincinnati teams finished in the top-50 of adjusted defensive efficiency for 10 consecutive seasons before getting to UCLA and acquiring a defensive dumpster fire. The Bruins currently sit at #200 which unsurprisingly is the worst in the conference. Their biggest problem is the inability to guard shooters. Teams are currently shooting an astounding 40.1% from beyond the 3-pt line against UCLA which is 346th out of 353 in the country. Washington will get wide open looks and if they’re able to knock them down then it will be difficult for UCLA to catch up.

The Bruins have actually been pretty good at protecting the rim this season although they haven’t faced a big as dominant as Isaiah Stewart despite playing some tough games. UCLA has 5 players at 6’9 or 6’10 they can rotate in to take turns defending Stewart. That size also means they’re an extremely good rebounding teams on both ends of the court. This might be another game where UCLA is shooting much worse than Washington but are in it because they’ve gotten an extra 10+ shots due to offensive boards.

And UCLA absolutely needs those second opportunities since they are a mediocre to poor shooting team. Washington fans are frustrated by Hameir Wright but at least he can occasionally knock down an open shot to help UW’s spacing. No player on UCLA averages more than one 3-point make per game this season. The Husky zone should take a step back and dare UCLA to shoot early and instead focus on being ready to send extra bodies into the paint for rebounds and to contest shots.

UCLA is coming off a 3-game losing streak including an embarrassing home loss to #275 Cal State Fullerton. The Titans pulled off the upset by shooting nearly 60% on 3-pointers so I’d expect Cronin to make guarding the line an imperative for his team. Regardless, they’ve been terrible at it all season and Quade Green should be able to find plenty of open looks for Washington’s shooters. The Dawgs are 9-0, all by double digits, against teams ranked 50th or worse at KenPom. UCLA comes in at #127. I expect more of the same.

Prediction

Washington Huskies- 77, UCLA Bruins-67

*****

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