UCLA kicks off its basketball season (well, besides all those weeks of practice) with an exhibition game against EA Sports tonight at Pauley Pavilion, at 7:30. "Exhibition" means if you win, no one will give you any credit, and if you lose, everyone will say that the season is already a disaster.
EA Sports has a roster of former college players, most of whom started way back when, and some of whom I actually remember. The best players seem to be 6-4 swingman Larry Crowe, formerly of Cal State Northridge (mad bomber from 3), 6-2 shooting guard Jabari Johnson, formerly of Texas-Arlington (another shooter), 5-10 point guard Brooklyn McClinn, formerly of Cal State Northridge (actually, he shoots a lot, too; expect a ton of 3s in this game), and 6-9 center L. Dee Murdock, formerly of Illinois State via Missouri (I actually remember him from Missouri, good touch inside). Others include 6-4 combo guard Brandon Titus, formerly of Long Beach State (he's actually the best playmaker on the team), 6-9 center Julius Hicks, formerly of Oregon (big banger, no offense), 6-9 center/forward DeAnthony Langston, formerly of Long Beach State (decent touch, long arms, should start), 6-4 swingman Ray "Machine Gun" Kelly, formerly of UC-Santa Barbara (another gunner, but he has some real guard skills), and 6-6 forward Damion Walker, formerly of New Mexico via TCU (the only real forward on the team, underachieved in college).
So far, EA Sports has beaten an injury-plagued Cal State Fullerton team by 20 and UCSB by 3, and gotten creamed by San Diego State, USD and Pepperdine. Except for the UCSB game, all of the games have been high scoring affairs that would make the NBA jealous. By the time EA Sports plays UCLA, they will be playing their 7th game in 8 days (they play Fresno State tonight). In other words, these guys are going to be tired.
UCLA will start a line up of 6-7 freshman point guard Cedric Bozeman, 6-4 senior shooting guard Billy Knight, 6-7 junior shooting forward Jason Kapono, 6-8 senior combo forward Matt Barnes and 6-11 senior center Dan Gadzuric. We expect that UCLA's entire team will wander into this game eventually, but in particular 6-3 senior guard Ray Young, 6-4 senior guard Rico Hines, 6-8 freshman guard/forward Dijon Thompson, 6-6+ freshman power forward Andre Patterson and 6-9 sophomore power forward/center TJ Cummings will all likely see significant action (height listings reflect our latest estimates).
The Bruins should be hungry to play strangers, though Hicks is no stranger (though neither is he a friend). If UCLA comes out to compete from the first minute, they ought to win this game by 20 points, although Lavin's use of his bench and EA Sports' 3-point accuracy could easily alter the point spread in unexpected ways that will have little to do with making accurate assessments of the game or predictions for the future (EA Sports averages about 25 3-point attempts per game, and has hit 44% of them so far). In other words, don't place any bets in Vegas on this game, just show up at Pauley and check out the debut of this year's team.