The unbeaten LMU Lions come into a Pauley Pavilion with a perfect 7-0 record — the best in program history — to face the 5-2 UCLA Bruins.
In its last matchup against the Bruins, LMU beat the No. 17 Bruins 69-58 in front a rowdy 75-person crowd at the LA Sports Arena in 2011. Both LMU and UCLA are trying to get back to being among college basketball’s best programs. LMU comes into the contest ranked No. 25 in the new NCAA NET rankings.
Can LMU help prove the NET system right? This game will determine if LMU is legit.
Next Man Up
This is a matchup that pins two of the deepest teams in college basketball. Both teams go 10 deep off their bench and have a multitude of scorers. In their last game, LMU had 13 players play 10 or more minutes in their last contest. But LMU is one of the few mid majors that can match UCLA’s depth.
The Bruins have nine players in their rotation. Coach Steve Alford has stacked this team with recruits like seven-footer Moses Brown, shooting guard Jules Brown and reserve David Singleton III. The talented group of freshmen and sophomores can play. Onetime China shoplifters Cody Riley and Jalen Hill provide significant help off the bench and provide a dramatic boost for UCLA defensively.
If LMU is gonna upset UCLA in Pauley they will have to dominate the turnover. The Lions rank No. 9 in turnover percentage and UCLA point Jaylen Hands has had troubles turning the ball over with a 19.8% turnover rate. UCLA bigs Brown and Hill are very vulnerable holding the basketball. Look for LMU to pick UCLA’s pockets when they go into the post. LMU plays great defense in transition, and will be able to steal a couple of possessions when UCLA pushes the ball to get an easy basket.
The Battle of the Big Men
The matchup between two solid big men. UCLA’s star 7’1 freshmen center Brown will finally face someone taller than him when he goes up against the 7’3 giant Mattias Markusson. The LMU center has been a force inside, averaging 11.4 points and 9.3 rebounds per game; he will give UCLA’s five-star freshmen a significant test. UCLA has been able to dominate the boards and defend the paint defensively against inferior competition, however, Brown struggled when facing Michigan State’s solid big man Nick Ward. Markusson is not as polished as Ward, but he will give Brown his most significant physical challenge.
The James Batemon Show
Thankfully for the Lions, they have a player who would start on any team in the PAC-12. James Batemon is the best college basketball player nobody has paid attention to. Batemon is averaging 21.6 ppg on 47% shooting. UCLA’s defensive weakness has been stopping point guards. Look for Batemon to carry the offensive load and to create more opportunities for his teammates. If his teammates can knock down outside shots, and keep the UCLA’s defense honest, then the Lions will have a chance to beat the Bruins Sunday night.