Prairie View (0-0) at (4) U-C-L-A (0-0)
Wednesday, November 12th, 10:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Scott Haynes, Senior College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Pauley Pavilion (12,819) -- Los Angeles, California. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: Prairie View 0-0, UCLA 0-0. Away Record Prairie View 0-0, UCLA 0-0. Neutral Record Prairie View 0-0, UCLA 0-0. Conference Record Prairie View 0-0, UCLA 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The fourth-ranked UCLA Bruins open up their 90th season of basketball tonight at home, as they welcome the Prairie View Panthers to Pauley Pavilion for opening round action of the 2K Sports Classic Benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer.
Ben Howland's Bruins are coming off yet another stellar campaign, as the team won the Pac-10 again and went on to finish the year 35-4, advancing to the Elite Eight for the third straight season. There is a price for success though, as three of the team's best got selected in the last NBA Draft, including lottery picks Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook.
The Panthers on the other hand have gone five seasons without playing in the SWAC Tournament, but that drought should end with a veteran-laden squad that should compete game-in and game-out for head coach Byron Rimm II.
This is the first-ever meeting between these two teams. The winner will take on either Miami-Ohio or Weber State in second round action tomorrow.
With only five underclassmen, the Panthers bring back a lot of experience on a team that showed potential last season. Senior guard Derek Johnson, who averaged 11.0 points per game, also led the SWAC in steals (2.0 per game) and was second in assists with 3.8 per game. Johnson will be looked upon to lead the Panthers with help from players like guards Freddie Edo and Dorian McDaniel as well as frontcourt specialists Blake Thompson, Jacoie Shivers, Tarrence Garrison and Terrance Moore. Prairie View will probably not challenge for a conference title this year, but should play well enough at times to give the team confidence, which should translate into an appearance in the conference tournament.
Darren Collison decided to return to school to finish his career at UCLA, and fans of the team are thrilled, considering the mass exodus following last year. The playmaking guard averaged 14.5 ppg and 3.8 apg last season despite the fact that he was fresh off a knee injury. Expect him to be even quicker being one year removed from the injury. Fellow senior standout Josh Shipp is also back in the fold and he returns 12.2 ppg to the mix. Expected to help Shipp and Collison out is one of the best freshmen crops in the nation. The best of the bunch is Jrue Holliday, a 6-3 guard who is expected to be one of the top players in the conference from day one. Rookies Drew Gordon and J'Mison Morgan will see time in the frontcourt and should help provide depth along with returnees Aldred Aboya and James Keefe. All of those players must find a way to fill the void created by the departure of Love, a dominant center. Just how far UCLA goes will depend a lot on how well the youngsters perform.
The Panthers stand little chance of even keeping this one close. The Bruins may have lost some key personnel from last season, but Howland did a great job in re-stocking the shelves and UCLA should see immediate results.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UCLA 93, Prairie View 47
11/12 10:20:27 ET