Out of Bounds: The Best It Gets
“Out of Bounds” is the Daily Bruin’s newly revived sports podcast. On this week’s show, Sports editor Sam Connon and Daily Bruin senior staffer Ryan Smith discuss UCLA men’s basketball’s turnaround weekend, recruiting news surrounding UCLA football during National Signing Day, a rough bump in the road for UCLA women’s basketball and what the future of the show could hold.
Sam Connon: Hi, my name is Sam Connon, and this is “Out of Bounds.”
SC: My name is Sam Connon, I’m the Sports editor at the Daily Bruin. Today I’m joined again by co-host Ryan Smith, who is a Daily Bruin senior staffer, former Sports editor. How you doing today, Ryan?
Ryan Smith: I’m great, I’m happy to be back.
SC: Yeah, It’s all in good fun. Big weekend for UCLA men’s basketball, a home sweep over Colorado – who was ranked No. 20 at the time – and Utah. So we’re going to talk about that today. National Signing Day for football is Wednesday, Feb. 5. By the time this comes out, it will have already come and pass, so we’ll just touch on that a bit. And then we’ll also start talking about the future the podcast, how other people can get involved and all that stuff. So that’s what’s on the agenda today. I guess we’ll start off with men’s basketball – it’s the most recent. Definitely an interesting two games for UCLA, kind of unexpected. We were talking about it last week, that we didn’t really think this team had too much of a go-to scorer or anything in them in that sense, but then Chris Smith gets 30 and Tyger Campbell gets 22. So what are your big takeaways from the weekend, Ryan?
RS: Well, I think what we saw this weekend was, that is the best version of this team, I think. I think they played outstanding defense, especially against Colorado for most of that game, especially early. Colorado only had, what was it, 10 points in the first 10, 11 minutes of the game. Chris Smith, we touched on it last week that he was probably their best hope for that go-to scorer role, even though his offensive game isn’t all the way there in terms of, you know, the 3-point shot, stuff like that. That was a big-time performance on a on a big-time stage. UCLA hadn’t beat a ranked team and almost two years at that point. And then against Utah, same thing, they came out, shut them down and only gave up 57 points. And then Tyger Campbell, again, another person we talked about last week needed to step up – and that is the best version of Tyger Campbell. He got to all this, all the spots on the court, he was facilitating the basketball, he was getting past his man, finishing at the basket. I don’t think there’s much more Mick Cronin or UCLA basketball can ask for after those two games.
SC: Yeah, and literally we made it one episode into this podcast before looking like absolute fools.
RS: It’s true.
SC: Because we were none too kind to Tyger Campbell’s offense last week. But wow, I mean, he really, he shot above 50% from the field, 50% from the 3-point line, he was doing really well on free throws – none of which he had done all year, but he definitely stepped up in those moments. His floater was going down and he was really connecting with Jalen Hill down low. That was something that was fun to watch against Utah for sure. And then Prince Ali against Colorado, another guy that we were kind of railing last week. But he definitely stepped up, had three 3-pointers in the first half against Colorado, kind of helped them build that early lead. And I mean, they held onto it, had a lot to do with him. He played over 20 minutes in that game. He’s definitely becoming more of a rotation player after taking a brief stint not being a rotation player. I mean, he only had five points against Utah, but he still played 17 minutes. So I think that’s what he needs to be. I don’t want him taking 10 shots a game, I don’t want them playing, like, 28 minutes. But if he can play like high teens, 20 minutes per game and be that veteran leader that he has been recently, I feel like that’s where you get the most out of him. It’s definitely easy to be really positive on this team right now after back-to-back wins – four out of their last five. But you got the Arizona’s coming up, always tough, especially on the road. Got the curtain, the distraction, Thursday night against Arizona State. They’re definitely a very balanced scoring team and Arizona’s freshmen heavy top-25 team. What do you think about those two games coming up, Ryan?
SC: I think the biggest thing at this point is just, can they keep up the defense? Obviously, they gave up 96 to Oregon before they came into this past weekend. So if they can keep this momentum going, I mean, you’re gonna have a chance in every game you play in the Pac-12, you know, both of these schools are tough to play at. And at the end of the day, you just want to see them building on these wins, create some consistency. And, you know, they’re already in the top half of the Pac-12 standings so, I mean, every win down the stretch here is going to be very important.
SC: Yeah, and I think if you would have asked me three weeks ago, “Can this team win close games?” I would say “No.” Because the Fullerton game was a close game, they choke that one up at the end. The Washington State game shouldn’t have even gone to overtime, and then once it did, they got blown out. But I think something that’s really changed over the course of the year – and especially versus last year – is free throw shooting. I mean, Chris Smith got double-digit points just from the free throw line against Colorado. You had Jaime Jaquez – who is a freshman – was 8-for-8 from the line against Utah, Tyger Campbell was 6-of-7. Right now, UCLA is ranked 164th in the country with about a 71 free throw percentage, versus last year where they were shooting about 63% and they were 344th in the country. So that is a big transition for this team. If they can keep that up and just kind of have these, like, gritty games where they play good defense and hit their free throws, that’s where this team succeeds, and they definitely need to have that come through on the road. It’s definitely tougher to hit those free throws, definitely tougher to play good defense, but, I mean, that’s the key to success for this team. You can’t really rely on one guy to get you 20 points a night, maybe you’ll have a guy show up in spurts like Tyger, like Chris Smith, like Jalen Hill. But, I mean, it’s definitely a holistic approach to this, to the rest of the season really. And then, so we’re recording this on a Tuesday morning, but by the time this comes out, National Signing Day will have come and passed. Obviously, UCLA can keep signing guys after that, but for the most part, the class will probably be all set by the time this comes out. At the time of recording, UCLA is ranked 32nd in the country in recruiting, they have four four-stars. Doesn’t look like they’ll be getting too many more recruits, on 247Sports they only have two guys left that they’re considered “warm” on. They still had guys taking visits – whether they’re class of 2020 or 21 – but it seems like things are winding down. I don’t know Ryan, what do you think about the recruiting class so far this year? Any takes there?
RS: Yeah, obviously nothing game-breaking, but you know, it’s a big class. I know that a lot of UCLA fans are excited about some of these names in here. Obviously, Logan Loya being the biggest one, four-star receiver, get to add that to a group that already has Chase Cota and Kyle Philips, so that’ll be fun. And possibly the Joshua Kelley replacement in Brittain Brown from Duke. But, you know, again, nothing game-breaking here, but a large class nonetheless. And you never know what comes out of some of these guys, especially with a smart coach like Chip Kelly, you never know how he’s going to utilize these guys. They’re more than just their ranking.
SC: So yeah, and like you were saying, Logan Loya is obviously one of the big names up there. He’s already enrolled in school here, four-star receiver out of St. John Bosco, one of the other four-stars, outside linebacker Jonathan Vaughns – supposed to be really good – who’s a teammate of Loya’s at St. John Bosco. So those two are definitely two of the biggest names who are committed to UCLA so far. You also have two other four stars, you have Parker McQuarrie, the 6-foot-7 quarterback from New Hampshire, he won’t get playing time very early, but he’s definitely a fun name to watch. And then Damien Sellers, the four-star outside linebacker from Arizona. He is definitely someone who will contribute in the pass rush, hopefully sooner rather than later this team’s definitely losing a lot of linebackers, losing a lot of pass rush, so Sellers and McQuarrie are good. We’ll see if Vaughns ends up signing on Wednesday. I guess if you’re listening to this, you’ll know, you can look it up – we don’t. I’d say it is interesting looking at transfers though – you bring up Brittain Brown, who’s definitely got some good size for running back, he’s 6-1, 200, coming from Duke, an ACC program. And then the other two – I think just between the three transfers that UCLA has so far, you have, like, an All-American name team. They’re like, you have Brittain Brown, it’s a pretty cool name – alliteration, Brittain, it’s a fun first name. And then you have another guy, a safety from Kent State and Maryland – because he’s already been to both – Qwuantrezz Knight. I mean, like, come on. I don’t know how good he is or if he’ll contribute right away, but Qwuantrezz Knight, amazing name. And then Charles Njoku’s brother Evidence Njoku, really cool name. And he’s got the same size as brother does, he’s 6-foot-5, 228, so between bringing Evidence Njoku over from Miami, Logan Loya coming over, Chase Cota, Kyle Philips, you have Charles Njoku, you just have a lot of big athletic targets that I think are going to work really well with DTR. So we will be there at Chip Kelly’s press conference on Wednesday. You can check dailybruin.com for our coverage of National Signing Day by the time this airs, see how it all went, just see if any new faces ended up signing. Chip will have something to say about it. We’ll see how excited he is about it. He’ll probably be pretty pleased, so that’ll be something interesting. And then also last weekend – on last week’s episode, we were talking about UCLA women’s basketball and how well they were playing, maybe set for a Final Four run – and then they lost to Arizona. Arizona is a ranked team, not the most shameful loss in that sense, but they got absolutely blown out. That’s definitely tough to swallow. They followed it up by beating Arizona State a few days later, so they’re kind of getting things on track, but I don’t know Ryan, it’s definitely a tough loss to swallow against Arizona when you know you have Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, when those are all coming up on the slate.
RS: Yeah, I mean, you don’t want to lose any game, especially when you’re when you’re only a one-loss team. You’re fighting for those spots up in the top of the rankings. But I mean, this wasn’t, you know, a five, 10-point loss. This was a 26-point loss to an Arizona team that – let’s face it – isn’t as good as UCLA. And, you know, I, you just, you look at games like that and you hope that you’re not being exposed, you hope that, you know, it’s just a one time thing. But, you know, it’s never the greatest sign when you go in and lose the game like that. The good teams don’t have games where stuff like that happens. It just didn’t seem like everything was working for UCLA that night, they only hit three 3s on about 20 attempts. So again, you hope it’s nothing serious, but everyone was healthy. They’re playing a team they should have beat, and you lose by 26. So it’s something to keep an eye on here as we get closer to the tournament.
SC: Yeah, and then talking about the slate coming up this weekend, they have Stanford and Cal on the road. Cal’s definitely beatable team, but Stanford is not so much, they’re definitely tough. But the week after, they’re back at home against Oregon, Oregon State, two more top teams in the country. I’m just excited to go see Sabrina Ionescu play in person, because it’s been a while.
RS: Oh yeah.
SC: She’s, like, the absolute cream of the crop, like, best there is, going to be the No. 1 pick in the WNBA Draft. I’m just really looking forward to watching her in person. Still, that’ll be interesting, for sure, to see how they handle her for the first time this season. So yeah, UCLA women’s basketball, bit of a hiccup last weekend, let’s see what they’re gonna do down the stretch. And then, well, I guess we’re wrapping up here. It’s week five here at UCLA, it’s midterm season. We’re trying to trying to get this out, have a little fun with it. Omar, you can put an air horn sound in here, I know you want to do that, but I have an announcement to make – we’ll see how this ends up going. But just to kind of spice up the podcast a little more, something I wanted to do is get some user-submitted questions, do a little Q&A style at the end of every episode. So if you have any questions about anything UCLA Athletics, you can tweet them @DBSports or you can email me at [email protected] We’ll try to answer as many questions as we can every week, I think that’s definitely something that can be fun for listeners, fun for us to do, kind of engage with you guys. And then past that, we’re going to be trying to have more guests on. So I mean, Ryan and I are a pretty great duo, but we’ll definitely get some more voices in here from inside Daily Bruin and maybe outside Daily Bruin. We’re working on stuff, we’ll see how it goes. So yeah, Ryan, any other thoughts about UCLA sports this week?
RS: I don’t have anything left for this week but, you know, I will say I’m pretty excited about the weeks to come. I saw a lot of good things from men’s basketball this week, and the season that I did not think had much promise all of a sudden feels pretty exciting. And that’s a good thing.
SC: Yeah, and another another quick announcement, UCLA softball is starting this week, trying to defend their national title. No Rachel Garcia, but they definitely have some stars there. So things will be popping up at Easton Stadium again, that’ll be fun. Yeah, so this has been episode two of “Out of Bounds,” Daily Bruin Sports podcast. I’ve been your host, Sam Connon, Sports editor, joined by co-host Ryan Smith, Daily Bruin senior staff. Thanks again to Omar Said for editing and helping helping us manage this stuff, it’s been a fun time again. Yeah, so that’s all I have, keep an eye out for our coverage this week. Ryan and I will be back again to talk next week, we’ll see what we end up coming out with. I know I have a column coming out this week though, it’ll be published by the time this podcast comes out, but I definitely want to get your thoughts on it – Josh Rosen related – Ryan. So, well, there’s more to come. We’ll keep chatting, talking UCLA sports, and thanks for listening.