Two desperate teams enter Reliant Stadium Saturday looking for a much needed win. For UCLA and Texas, they may be looking for respect but they need confidence and momentum after disappointing starts.
The last time UCLA faced a high profile team on national TV, they were beaten by a physical Georgetown team. That was the spark of their unraveling as they’ve lost to good shooting teams (Cal Poly SLO, San Diego State) and realized they had defensive issues that need to be fixed.
Texas has been a disappointment this season as well. A blowout loss to Georgetown harkened back to early season losses to Chaminade and USC. They’ve feasted on weak competition and yet just like UCLA, they’re still looking to establish an identity.
Both teams have coaches on the hot seat in Ben Howland and Rick Barnes. Both are struggling on offense yet the key difference is that Texas is a great defensive team, holding opponents to 32% shooting. That could be a tough matchup for UCLA considering they aren’t a great shooting team, save for Jordan Adams and Shabazz Muhammad.
Adams and Muhammad should have a great battle against Longhorns duo Sheldon McClellan (16.4 ppg) and Julien Lewis (11.3 ppg). Yet I’m upset that Texas isn’t at full strength with sophomore Myck Kabongo not being declared eligible by the NCAA as they investigate him possibly receiving benefits from an agent.
My pick: UCLA should win this game. As bad as they are, Texas is worse and the Bruins have more playmakers that can make things happen. But given Texas playing in front of a local crowd firing them up, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Bruins lay another egg in front of a national audience. A Ben Howland coached team being beaten by another defensive-minded team would be a sad twist of irony.
Either way, the Pac-12 needs a confidence boost and I hate to put that pressure on UCLA but they need some urgency. Texas will bring that same urgency as well and it’s a good chance for UCLA to save some face.