Every so often, there is just an overwhelming number of hot topics enveloping the UCLA sports scene. The end of the quarter represents a crossroads of sorts for fall and winter sports, so we’re opening the floor to basketball, football, soccer and water polo in this edition of the weekly showdown between DB Sports senior staff.
Which UCLA fall sport was most disappointing and why?
Tyler Drohan: Coming off a Final Four appearance last year, the stage was set for another long run into the NCAA tournament for men’s soccer in 2012. The Bruins played well, securing the Pac-12 conference title with a win on the final day of the regular season. However, the team went down in shocking defeat in the second round of the NCAA tournament to unseeded San Diego, losing 5-2 at home after a first-round bye.
Andrew Erickson: Playing in the NCAA title game for the third time in four seasons last weekend, the 2012 UCLA men’s water polo team squandered a perfect opportunity to earn national title No. 109. The Bruins were three minutes away from upsetting the USC Trojans at their home pool, but were unable to buckle down in their final defensive stand and came away empty-handed. What’s more troublesome for the Bruins is that this might’ve been their last shot for a while, with four of seven starters graduating this spring.
UCLA football missed out on the Rose Bowl and will now play in the Holiday Bowl. Who wins and why?
Tyler Drohan: I think coach Jim Mora knows the result of the bowl game will be a significant one. It may not be the “Granddaddy of them all,” but a win will be important in maintaining recruiting momentum. The UCLA defense will need to contain a strong Baylor offensive attack. Johnathan Franklin will be playing his last game as a Bruin, and I think he’ll go off in a 38-35 win.
Andrew Erickson: Baylor comes into the Holiday Bowl with the nation’s fifth-best scoring offense, but is 117th (hint: there are 120 teams in the FBS) in points allowed on defense. The Bruins have a much better front seven but have had consistency issues in their secondary all season. UCLA will be hungry for a win here after coming so close against Stanford and will complete its first 10-win season since 2005 with a 45-40 win. Expect the scoreboard operator to be busy in this one.
What will be men’s basketball’s biggest key to success on the road Saturday against Texas?
Tyler Drohan: Get Kyle Anderson involved. The freshman forward can do it all and is far too talented as a ball handler to be relegated to a bit part in the offense. An underrated part of Anderson’s game is his rebounding. He’s led the Bruins in rebounding in four of eight games this year and the team has gone 3-1 in those games. A big reason for their success in those games is that he can grab a defensive board and instantly start the fast break on offense. UCLA will need a big performance from Anderson if it wants to get a win in Big 12 country.
Andrew Erickson: Keeping its hands to itself. UCLA is a team with eight players in the rotation on a good day, so I’ll channel my inner “Apollo 13″ for this game in Houston by saying the following: Foul trouble is not an option. Not only is Tony Parker just recovering from a sprained ankle, but coach Ben Howland recently mentioned that he doesn’t expect his star guard Shabazz Muhammad to be in peak game shape until January. For the sake of their second-half rebounding, they need to be able to effectively substitute early on.