Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021

AdvertiseDonateSubmit
NewsSportsArtsOpinionThe QuadPhotoVideoIllustrationsCartoonsGraphicsThe StackPRIMEEnterpriseInteractivesPodcastsBruinwalkClassifieds

IN THE NEWS:

Community feedback surveyTracking COVID-19 at UCLACrosstown Clash 2021

Men’s basketball emphasizes humility amid Pac-12 preseason recognition

Senior guard Chris Smith was voted to the All-Conference First Team and UCLA men’s basketball enters its season as Pac-12 favorites. (Niveda Tennety/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Jon Christon

Nov. 12, 2020 6:32 p.m.

This post was updated Nov. 15 at 6:43 p.m.

UCLA has finished atop its conference 31 times, more than double the number of any other team in Pac-12 history. In the last decade, however, the program has won the regular-season conference crown once.

Now, the Bruins are back on track.

For the first time in nine years, UCLA men’s basketball tops the preseason Pac-12 media poll, barely ranking ahead of Arizona State and Oregon in the closest top-three finish in the poll’s history.

The Bruins finished with nine of the 23 first-place votes and ended up with 251 total points, making them the conference’s preseason leader ahead of the Sun Devils’ 246 and Ducks’ 241.

Coach Mick Cronin – who guided the Bruins to a second-place finish in his first year last season – said these rankings don’t mean a thing to him and only make his job more difficult.

“I don’t mean to disrespect the people that vote, but that stuff doesn’t matter,” Cronin said. “It makes my job harder because it kind of takes the hunger away a little bit from guys. Maybe they’re not mature enough to understand that all it does is help your opponents, because their coaches early in the season can say, ‘Well, you better be ready to play, they’re picked to win their league.’”

Cronin said last year’s eighth-place ranking on the same list was a motivating factor for the team and a big reason for its second-half success.

After starting the season with a 9-9 record and 1-3 in the Pac-12, UCLA went 11-3 the rest of the way and climbed all the way up to the second spot. The team returns nearly the same roster from a year ago, with nine of the 10 minutes leaders back with the Bruins.

Senior guard Chris Smith said this team’s continuity, especially with the coaching staff entering its second season, will be a major key in living up to the preseason expectations.

“Coach Cronin is not new anymore – he’s implemented his culture and everybody here already has a good feel for him, so I don’t think he can implement himself anymore,” Smith said. “It’s just pretty much getting the new guys, giving them a good feel of coach Cronin. I try to give some of my wisdom to the newer players so that the transition is easier for them than it was for us last year.”

Smith individually received some preseason Pac-12 hardware as well, earning a spot on the All-Conference First Team for the first time in his career. Smith was last year’s leading scorer at 13.1 points per game.

Redshirt sophomore guard Tyger Campbell, redshirt junior forward/center Jalen Hill and sophomore guard/forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. also all picked up All-Conference recognition, with Campbell earning a Second Team spot and the other two as Honorable Mentions.

Cronin said he does not care who receives what in the preseason, and all that matters is how they play on the court.

“Nothing against preseason Pac-12 media polls but what are they going to get for it?” Cronin said. “It doesn’t matter that (Smith) is First-Team. Like, that’s not going to wake up (Portland Trail Blazer’s President of Basketball Operations) Neil Olshey and he’s going to say, ‘Boy, I better really scout Chris Smith, he’s ranked First Team preseason.’”

Smith reiterated this message when he said the team will play with the same level of intensity and focus regardless of its ranking or his own individual awards.

“Whether we are ranked first or ranked dead last, we’re going to come into the season with the same mindset,” Smith said. “We know what loses games and we know what wins games. Whether I am picked First Team All-American or First Team Pac-12, whatever it is, we’re going to come into the season with the same mindset.”

Share this story:FacebookTwitterRedditEmail
Jon Christon | Sports editor
Christon is currently the Sports editor and a reporter on the men's basketball and football beats. He was previously an assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, softball, men's tennis and women's tennis beats and a reporter on the women's basketball and softball beats.
Christon is currently the Sports editor and a reporter on the men's basketball and football beats. He was previously an assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, softball, men's tennis and women's tennis beats and a reporter on the women's basketball and softball beats.
COMMENTS
Featured Classifieds
Help Wanted

Remote Linux System Administrator I need someone to install updates, complete some projects and to be available for emergency issues that come up now and then with my web server/asterisk PBX servers. Experience required: apache/lets encrypt, sendmail/dovecot, asterisk/freePBX, php/mysql, DNS management and configuration of network gateways Reliability, dependability and excellent communication skills are essential. In an emergency I need someone who can respond immediately, trouble shoot and diagnose the problem and fix the issue. Please call 1.805.322.0005

More classifieds »
Related Posts