One of the blue bloods of college basketball will make their first trip to Tuscaloosa as UCLA highlights the non-conference home schedule for Alabama. UCLA had a very solid season in Steve Alford's first year as head coach, reaching the Sweet 16 before falling to Florida. They lost some key players to the NBA draft, but at UCLA they don't believe in rebuilding seasons so the expectation is once again to compete for the PAC 12 title and reach the NCAA tournament. In a non-conference schedule for Alabama that features the majority of their toughest tests away from home, this game could prove to be Bama's last chance at a quality non-conference win.
Despite losing 3 of their top 4 scorers to the NBA draft, along with seniors David and Travis Wear, UCLA will still have a very talented roster. In addition to experienced returning players in Norman Powell, Tony Parker and Bryce Alford, UCLA signed a very impressive recruiting class highlighted by Kevin Looney, Thomas Welsh and Isaac Hamilton (originally signed with UTEP, opted out, and sat out last year as a result). Jonah Bolden was another highly-rated recruit, but he did not qualify and will have to sit out this season. Two other returning players who could have a greater impact this season are Wanaah Bail and Noah Allen.
There is a lack of depth in the Bruin backcourt, and who will man the point guard spot is still up in the air, but one thing UCLA will have plenty of is size. Alabama's biggest weakness on paper appears to be its lack of size so UCLA will present a serious challenge. UCLA by comparison has five players at 6'9 or taller who will likely be in the rotation. Alabama's big men will have to hold their own, while the perimeter game will have to be on target.
The only unfortunate aspect of this game is that it was scheduled for 12/28, which falls during the holiday break for the students. Nevertheless, the hope is that with a team of UCLA's history and stature, the fans will turn out in force and help our guys notch a big win.