Thursday, April 19

Gameday predictions: UCLA vs. Oregon, Oregon State

Undefeated UCLA men’s basketball will open Pac-12 play with a road trip to Oregon and Oregon State this week. Here’s how the Daily Bruin beat writers think the Bruins will fare:

Win at Oregon, Win at Oregon State
Derrek Li, beat writer

Last season, coach Steve Alford kept saying a road-trip sweep was a goal for the season. And all last season, UCLA couldn’t win two games back-to-back in one weekend.

This year, the Bruins are different and everybody knows it. I expect UCLA to keep its perfect record pristine heading into 2017. Of course, the biggest obstacle will be No. 21 Oregon on Wednesday night. The defending Pac-12 conference champion Ducks were picked to win the Pac-12 in the preseason media poll.

Oregon’s junior forward Dillon Brooks – who has been recovering from offseason foot surgery – has been slowly working his way back and finally made his way back into the starting lineup two games ago.

After the upset over then-No. 1 Kentucky, this will be UCLA’s biggest test to date and will also be only the Bruins’ second road game of the season after Lexington. But UCLA’s freshmen have shown time after time that they’re unfazed by just about any challenge. As long as the Bruins stick to what’s been working all season, UCLA should escape Pac-12 opening weekend with a 15-0 record.

Win at Oregon, Win at Oregon State
TuAnh Dam, Sports editor

It’s more or less the same Oregon team we expected that went to last year’s Elite Eight – especially once the Ducks get Brooks and senior forward Chris Boucher healthy and back on the court.

But this obviously isn’t the same UCLA team that went 15-17.

The Bruins have won almost as many games already this year as they did last year (13) before conference play even started behind the play of top freshmen Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf, who’ll be important pieces in the Bruins’ championship aspirations.

But in conference play, where UCLA went 6-12 last year, it’ll be the veterans that help the rookies acclimate to the Pac-12. And it starts in Eugene, where the Ducks haven’t lost since January 2015.

UCLA already ended then-No. 1 Kentucky’s 42-game streak at Rupp Arena earlier this season, but with conference play, the Bruins will start at 0-0.

Seniors Isaac Hamilton and Bryce Alford and sophomore Aaron Holiday have all improved their shooting percentages and will be key against an Oregon defense that’s ranked No. 16 nationally in defensive efficiency and limits opponents to 63.2 points a game.

As good as the Ducks’ defense is, they’ve struggled on offense this year shooting 46 percent from the field including putting up just 49 points in a loss to Baylor.

The Bruins have too many weapons and sharpshooters for the Ducks to keep track of especially buoyed by Ball’s quick and accurate passing.

If all goes as expected – Ball can deliver the ball and the shots fall – UCLA should enter 2017 undefeated and with the same number of wins they had all of last year.

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