The UCLA Bruins got to continue their easy opening schedule against the Chattanooga Mocs from the Southern Conference. UCLA won 106-65 in a blowout as expected, but the Bruins struggled once again when it came to stopping their opponents’ best player. UTC Senior Z. Mason scored 15 points against UCLA.
For those of you unfamiliar with Mason, he was considered the No. 2 overall tight end prospect in the 2009 recruiting class and signed with the Ole Miss Rebels before transferring to Chattanooga to play basketball. He was picked to the preseason All-Conference team and has been a consistent top player in the Southern Conference since his first time on the basketball court for the Mocs. He’s a mid-major capable player playing for a small school, so he’s no pushover.
UTC was picked to finish seventh in the Southern Conference and isn’t expected to go to the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Fortunately with conferences like the Southern being considered weaker, teams with star players like Mason are capable of making a run in the conference tournament and stealing the automatic No. 16 seed.
However, that doesn’t excuse the Bruins’ poor performance; UCLA cannot afford to let top players keep scoring on them at will. The Bruins haven’t played any great teams so far this season, and one of the better players on each team has scored at least 17 points, even in blowout wins.
What happens against future non-conference opponents like the Missouri Tigers, who have at least five players capable of scoring 20-plus points a game? UCLA is ranked in the top-25, but they are not playing top-25 caliber defense.
Head Coach Steve Alford is going to have success with the Bruins, but whether that success comes as early as this season has a lot to do with where their defense is once their schedule gets more difficult.