Breaking Down Pac-12 Non-Conference Schedules: UCLA and USCPosted by Andrew Murawa on October 23rd, 2013
October is here, and that means we are just weeks away from real, live basketball games. In order to prepare you for the first two months of the season, we’re going to break down all 12 non-conference slates over the next couple of weeks. Up next; the Los Angeles schools.
Teams are listed in order of which they will be played. Last season’s RPI in parenthesis. Potential opponents (one round in advance) are italicized. All times listed are Pacific.
Cream of the Crop: vs. Duke (#1) in New York City, at Missouri (#36)
Any time you’ve got an exhibition game against Duke in Madison Square Garden the week before Christmas on ESPN, you’ve got a real nice start to your schedule. Sure, the name of the event — the Carquest Auto Parts Classic — could use some work, but this is a game that will draw in fans, should help both teams in terms of building a resume, and will be a great barometer for where both squads stand in advance of conference play. Plus, Jabari Parker vs. Kyle Anderson? Um, yeah. We’ll want to watch that. Throw in the Bruins’ return trip to Missouri to reprise last year’s classic in Pauley Pavilion and, even though the Tigers aren’t as highly regarded this season, that’s a nice pair of games at the top of the schedule there. The problem is, this pair needs some company; but instead, the rest of the UCLA schedule is littered with more than a couple yawners.
Solid Names: vs. Nevada (#173) in Las Vegas, vs. Northwestern (#168) in Las Vegas, vs. Weber State (#85), vs. Alabama (#60)
Maybe there’s some bad luck mixed in here. Nevada is normally a pretty good program, but they’re in the midst of a downswing. Northwestern has been on the verge of decent recently, but with new head coach Chris Collins now in town, the Wildcats are in the midst of a rebuilding (well, honestly, we could probably drop the “re-“) phase. And Alabama, a stout defensive team since Anthony Grant took over, will probably again lack offensive punch, with Trevor Lacey bolting from the program. That leaves Weber State, a team that has developed into a nice Big Sky program, but one who is by no means a match for the power of a UCLA program. Really, of this group, it is Weber State with the best chance to make the NCAA Tournament this season. But in the long haul, while none of these games will really kill UCLA’s RPI numbers, not a one of these is expected to be the type of win that the Bruins can point to on Selection Sunday in support of a favorable seed.
RPI Anchors: vs. Drexel (#206), vs. Oakland (#152), vs. Sacramento State (#283), vs. Morehead State (#174), vs. Chatanooga (#292), vs. UC Santa Barbara (#245), vs. Prairie View A&M (#315),
Seven home games against teams who will likely be in the back half of Division I in RPI by the end of the season. Wins in these games are forgotten the day after; any losses will be pointed to for years as a black mark against Steve Alford’s name. Absolutely nothing good, other than a nice round of practice and perhaps a few highlight reel plays, will come from these games.
Note: UCLA will have exhibition games against Cal State San Bernardino on 10/30 and CS San Marcos on 11/4.
Cream of the Crop: at Utah State (#109), vs. Villanova (#52) (Battle 4 Atlantis), vs. Kansas (#5) (Battle 4 Atlantis),
The Trojans are looking to build a new identity under head coach Andy Enfield, and they’ll get a chance to test their mettle right out of the gate with a trip to Logan, Utah, to face the Aggies. One of the toughest places to play west of the Rockies, the Spectrum will be hopping, with a talented veteran home squad ready to pounce on a bigger name visitor. If the Trojans start out the season 1-0, they will have earned it. At the end of the opening month of the season, USC will participate in the Battle 4 Atlantis, opening up against a Villanova team that is itself a work in progress. Still, with four returning starters from a 20-win team, the Wildcats should be a significant favorite over the Trojans. And if somehow USC gets past Villanova in the opener of that tournament, in all likelihood Kansas will be waiting on Black Friday. It is doubtful that USC comes out of Thanksgiving weekend with any illusions about where they stand in the overall hierarchy of Division I basketball.
Solid Names: vs. Boston College (#113), at Long Beach State (#115), at Dayton (#114)
This batch of games is a good set of tests for the Trojans, contests in which they’ll need to play very well to win but in which they should have a good shot of coming away with a victory. First and foremost, by the time they host Boston College on December 8, they will have had eight regular season games in Enfield’s system under their belt. Secondly, the match-ups are all challenging but favorable. While Boston College has been mentioned by some as a potential surprise team in the ACC this year, the Trojans certainly aren’t going to be out-athleted by the Eagles. And given that BC has to come all the way across country after having previously played at Purdue that week, the schedule works out nicely for USC. Next, while they have to go on the road to face Long Beach State, they can take a bus down the 110 to the 405 to face a 49er team that is, for once, not expected to win the Big West. And while a mid-winter trip to Dayton in advance of Christmas Day doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, the Trojans may actually have more talent than this Flyers’ team. Really, all three of these games could go either way, but these are the types of games that will determine whether the Trojans enter conference play feeling good about themselves.
RPI Anchors: vs. CS Northridge (#240), vs. Northern Arizona (#255), vs. CS Fullerton (#268), vs. West Alabama, vs. CS Bakersfield (#237), vs. Howard (#334)
These games, especially those first four sandwiched between the opener at Utah State and the trip to the Bahamas, aren’t much to look at. But it is during these games that Enfield will get a chance to mix and match players and get a feel for his team against live competition. Put it this way: These games will be of far more interest to the basketball junkie than will UCLA’s games against a similar level of competition.
Note: USC will play non-Division I opponent West Alabama on 11/21.