I’ve become a UCLA guy. I’ve got a John Wooden framed photo in my family room, a Bill Walton plush toy to cuddle and powder blue sheets on my bed. A la Kareem, I skyhook every piece of trash into the garbage.
The Bruins are the most fun basketball team to watch this season; it is must-see TV when they play. So you should tune to CBS at 3 p.m. Saturday to see them play Ohio State.
The other night against UC Santa Barbara two UCLA freshmen just missed triple doubles. Lonzo Ball had 13 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists (that was an off-night for him passing the ball) and big man T.J. Leaf had 25 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. There have only been four recorded triple doubles in UCLA history, Kyle Anderson (2013), Toby Bailey (1995), Jelani McCoy (1995) and Bill Walton (1973). The assist became an official NCAA stat in 1983-84.
The assist is the key stat for the Bruins. EVERYBODY passes but it starts with Ball with his innate ability to find open teammates where no one else could. ‘‘It all centers around our guys being unselfish,’’ UCLA coach Steve Alford said. ESPN’s Jeff Borzello has a great story about Ball and his two younger brothers this week. Love his father’s attitude.
UCLA has exceeded 100 points five times this season; they are playing basketball at a far-faster pace than other teams. Sort of like when Wooden coached. It’s enough to bring back memories of Walton and Abdul-Jabbar. Here are some highlights narrated by the Great Walton.
The UCLA-Ohio State game is part of a doubleheader at the new T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Kentucky-North Carolina is the second game. Some doubleheader, huh? In fact, there are a few doubleheaders around the nation Saturday, it doesn’t happen very often any more. You have the Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis (Indiana, Butler, Purdue, Notre Dame), Northwestern and Illinois hosting games together at the United Center in Chicago, the Big Four Schools playing each other in Buffalo and the four Iowa schools meeting in Des Moines.
It reminds me of the days of frequent doubleheaders at Madison Square Garden in the 1960s and 70s. I saw quite a few. And I’ll watch as many as I can this weekend.
Here are the games I’d like to see this weekend:
Texas A&M at Arizona: Lots of people raving about Arizona’s 7-1 freshman from Finland, Lauri Markkanen.
Texas Tech at Richmond: Weird intersectional game. Texas Tech is 7-1 as new coach Chris Beard is succeeding with Tubby Smith’s players. Spidy has been inconsistent and is in danger of losing another home game here.
South Carolina at South Florida: SoFla seems to be improved under Orlando Antigua, who used to work for John Calipari. A victory here would really back up that statement.
Eastern Michigan at Vermont: Sneaky one with the Hurons at 6-3 and led by double-double machine James Thompson IV coming to ski country to play the 7-4 Catamounts.
Kennesaw State at UMass: Al Skinner returns to his alma mater as the coach for this obscure school. Still, cynics are saying Al will get back to the NCAAs before BC.
Notre Dame vs. Purdue in Indianapolis: Love this annual doubleheader at Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Butler and Indiana play in Game 2). The Irish gave Villanova some trouble last week but they will be the ones in trouble if the Boilermakers can find an outside game.
Kansas State vs. Colorado State in Denver: Hey, this is something for Patriots fans to do on Saturday before the big Broncos game. K-State is 9-1 but the only loss was to the one good team it played, Maryland. Colorado State is 8-2 and thinking about an NCAA bid; this will impress the committee.
Northern Iowa vs. Iowa in Des Moines: Another great annual doubleheader on a neutral court (Iowa State plays Drake in Game 2). This is the better game that will probably go down to the buzzer.
Butler vs. Indiana in Indianapolis: I’m still high on the Hoosiers; I expect a big victory.
North Carolina vs. Kentucky in Las Vegas: This will be played at the new arena in Sin City. The result will depend on the status of UNC’s point guard Joel Berry. If he plays, I like the Heels. If he doesn’t, I don’t.
Dayton vs. Northwestern in Chicago: The Flyers have been hindered by injuries but are still the better team. Northwestern has never been to the NCAA tournament; a victory here might be part of changing that.
Rice at Pitt: The Owls are 8-2, their best start in 12 seasons. To win No. 9, they’ll have to contain Pitt forward Michael Young, who’s averaging 23 points per game.
Oklahoma State at Wichita State: Great credit to Okie State for going on the road to meet this challenge. It will probably fail but hopefully the selection committee will note the trip in March.
Middle Tennessee at VCU: Another chance for Sully’s Court favorite Giddy Potts and the Blue Raiders to stamp themselves as an NCAA team.
Wake Forest at Xavier: Wake is 8-2 and improving under coach Danny Manning, but the Deacons aren’t good enough yet to pull off this upset.
BYU vs. Illinois in Chicago: This is the second game at the United Center. I love BYU’s personnel but they’re too inconsistent which means this will be a nice win for the Illini.
Clemson at Alabama: Two football schools trying to get good in basketball; it will be a crucial victory for the team that wins. Let’s take Clemson on the road.
Gonzaga vs. Tennessee in Nashville: Tennessee nearly knocked off North Carolina last week; now the Vols get Gonzaga in Music City. The Zags have been playing great; even looking like a Final Four contender. After the loss, Vols fans will have to cross the street and drown their sorrows at Layla’s Bluegrass Inn. I once saw Brandon Giles there. He’ll make you forget your troubles.
Portland at Oregon State: Need to check out first-year coach Terry Porter, the former Trail Blazer, as he coaches his two sons at Portland.
Northeastern at Michigan State: I just love the idea that the Huskies are playing this game. I don’t think it will end well, however.Joe Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeSullivan