UCLA is a weird team to try to preview.
- Their record is 8-10. That's bad!
- Their RPI is 57. That's good!
- They only have 5 juniors/seniors on the roster and only two of them play starter's minutes. That's bad!
- But they have six freshmen that make up the highest rated recruiting class in the country. That's good!
- They played UConn, Notre, Dame, Nebraska, Texas and UNC (all currently in the top 16!!!) in their non-conference schedule. That's dumb! The schedule was cursed.
In many ways, UCLA reminds me of the 09-10 Bears that won the WNIT. Those Bears had a large, heralded group of freshmen that struggled in the transition to the college game against a very tough schedule. Those Bears also had one high volume scorer (Alexis Gray-Lawson!) just as UCLA has Nirra Fields.
In Pac-12 play, UCLA has expectedly lost to Stanford and Oregon State, expectedly beat Utah and Colorado, beat USC twice, and suffered a surprise defeat to Oregon. 4-3 seems about right for them with that schedule.
PG Jordin Canada, 5'6'' Fr.
G Kari Korver 5'9'' So.
G Nirra Fields 5'9'' Jr.
G Recee' Caldwell, 5'8'' Fr.
C Corinne Costa, 6'4'' Sr.
F Lajahna Drummer, 6'1'' Fr.
F Monique Billings, 6'4'' Fr.
F Kacy Swain, 6'3'' Sr.
C Luiana Livulo, 6'3'' Sr.
G Kelli Hayes, 6'0'' Fr.
I don't know exactly who will start for UCLA - Cori Close has given 10 different players at least one start this season. the five players listed as starters are UCLA's five biggest minute earners. Probably one of the forwards listed as bench players will start over a guard - likely Recee' Caldwell, if I'm guessing. It doesn't really matter.
Jordin Canada is a blue chip recruit who is very much playing like a freshman point guard - a low shooting percentage and an assist/turnover ratio that's essentially even. She's talented, but Brittany Boyd really should steal her lunch money.
Fields and Korver are really the two best offensive players - Fields because she's a versatile scorer who does some work on the glass, Korver because she's one of the best 3 point shooters in the conference.
Nobody else is a consistent offensive threat. Recee' Caldwell is the only player other than Fields and Korver who will attempt 3s with any consistency, and all of UCLA's posts are low usage players.
Our Computer Overlords Predict
Sagarin Predictor: Cal by 1.5
Getting smashed (at least, in the final margin) by ASU and struggling with Arizona at home didn't really help Cal in the eyes of the computers. I'm still hoping that Courtney Range's re-introduction will eventually pay dividends, but Cal's struggles on the glass even with Range are disturbing.
Keys to the game
Smother UCLA's guards: We're talking about Canada, Fields, and Korver, UCLA's trio of scorers. In Korver's case, any of Cal's guards will be able to match her quickness, but Cal's length should make it difficult for her to get off 3 pointers - if the Bears are paying attention.
As I mentioned above, turnover prone freshmen are like blood in the water for Brittany Boyd. I expect Boyd to really challenge Canada's decision making ability. It should be a huge advantage for the Bears.
As for Fields? Bring double teams at key opportunities. Make sure that bigs are helping out when she drives. She's so clearly UCLA's number 1 option that there's not much disadvantage to giving her extra attention.
Show improvement on the defensive glass: Cal has really struggled to rebound the ball on both ends lately. I'm not going to worry too much about a lack of offensive rebounds - this team isn't really built to get a bunch of 2nd chances. But the defensive rebounds are alarming. Cal can hold teams to a low shooting percentage, but giving up 2nd chance points is death to the Bear defense. I don't think UCLA will pose a ton of a threat on the glass, and if they do it's a bad omen for the rest of the season.
Keep Reshanda on the floor and out of foul trouble: Your permanent 3rd key to the game of the 2014-15 season.