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Get To Know A Marquette Basketball Opponent: #4 UCLA Bruins

The Bruins come to Milwaukee for the first time since 1965.

NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament - Second Round Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

IMPORTANT SCHEDULING UPDATE: The start time on the game against UCLA has moved to 8:30pm Central time.

And now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Name: University of California, Los Angeles

Founded: That’s complicated. The existence of a state sponsored University of California system school in Los Angeles dates back to 1919, which is what UCLA uses as their actual founding date. However, that was the state legislature acquiring the land and buildings of the Los Angeles campus of the California State Normal School. That campus had been created back in 1881, with classes starting in August of 1882. So, in short, a school that started as a satellite campus of what is now San Jose State turned into a satellite campus of the University of California at Berkeley. It remained the Southern Branch of the University of California until 1927, when it officially became UCLA. The current Westwood campus wasn’t created and opened to students until 1929.

Enrollment: 47,516 this fall, with 32,119 undergraduates.

Nickname: Bruins

Why “Bruins?” Because it’s not the Golden Bears. As mentioned earlier, UCLA is technically just the southern branch office of Cal-Berkeley. So, when their football team was playing for the first time, they were called the Cubs because of the Bears up north. They adjusted to Grizzlies in 1923, probably just because it sounded meaner, but that didn’t last. In 1928, UCLA joined the Pacific Coast Conference, but the University of Montana already was the Grizzlies and they didn’t want there to be two of them. So, Bruins. Well, Bruins, once Cal-Berkeley agreed to stop using Bruins and Bears interchangeably.

How Quaint: I’m getting this last bit out of a discussion of Mardi Gras on UCLA’s campus, but it’s not actually about Mardi Gras. Here’s the whole sentence from UCLA’s alumni website:

For decades UCLA’s largest student-run activity, Mardi Gras had its roots in a 1943 “Carnival” held in the women’s gym that featured jigs and reels with Elizabethan costumes.

“In the women’s gym.” UCLA once had an entire separate gymnasium expressly for their female students to use. I’m not going to dig deeper here because it’ll probably just make my eyes roll out of my head.

Your Average Fraternity Singing Competition: The story behind the UCLA campus tradition of Spring Sing is delightful. Apparently tempers flared hot enough between various fraternities on campus about which group was better at serenading sorority members, and this led to an actual by-god competition with judging and everything. The damn thing led to crowds of 15,000 at the Hollywood Bowl and recordings of the winners put on sale on campus. It fell out of favor for a while in the late 1960s and 1970s, but it came back in 1978 and has endured since. The alumni website actually has a rundown of who won what awards every year since 1986.

Notable Alumni: Go get a beverage, because we’re going to be here for a minute.

Seven Nobel laureates, with Randy Schekman picking one up in Medicine in 2013 for the most recent one; Baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson; filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola; Tinder CEO Jim Lanzone; six Pro Football Hall of Famers, including Troy Aikman; Allen Adham, Michael Morhaime, and Frank Pearce, co-founders of Blizzard Entertainment, best known as the producer of World of Warcraft; a metric ton of actors, to the point where you’re just better off going and reading the list yourself and telling me in the comments who jumps out at you; astronaut Walter Cunningham, who flew on Apollo 7; Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman; Michael Ovitz, entertainment agent and former president of the Walt Disney Company; Vinton Cerf, known as the “father of the internet”; tennis icons Arthur Ashe and Jimmy Connors; Food Network star Giada De Laurentiis; Diane Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube; screenwriter Shane Black; Marcia Clark, lead prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson murder trial; Johnnie Cochran, defense attorney, best known for his role in the O.J. Simpson murder trial; screenwriter and director Alexander Payne; John W. Henry, principal owner of the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool FC; Academy Award winning composers John Williams and James Horner; Nixon administration officials John Ehrlichman and H.R. Haldeman; a whole bunch of musicians, including Sara Bareilles, Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek from The Doors; food critic Jonathan Gold, and finally, Rodney Alcala, aka “the Dating Game Killer.”

Honestly, that’s just scratching the surface and pulling out either names or occupations that you’d recognize right away.

Last Season: 22-10 with a record of 13-6 in the Pac-12 after losing the final three games of the regular season. They then lost in overtime in their first game of the conference tournament to an Oregon State team that had no business beating the Bruins, but as a #11 seed, UCLA won their First Four game to launch a run to the Final Four. Their season was ended by Gonzaga in overtime on an absolutely bonkers shot by Jalen Suggs after the Bruins scored with 3.3 seconds to play.

Final 2020-21 KenPom.com Ranking: #13, but they were #45 when their First Four game against Michigan State started.

Final 2020-21 T-Rank Ranking: #18, after starting the NCAA tournament at #53.

This Season: 7-1 with only a 20 point neutral court loss to Gonzaga marring their record and a 1-0 start to Pac-12 play.

Current 2021-22 KenPom.com Ranking: #8

Current 2021-22 T-Rank Ranking: #9

Returning Stats Leaders

Points: Johnny Juzang, 16.0 pts
Rebounds: Jaime Jaquez, 6.1 rpg
Assists: Tyger Campbell, 5.4 apg

Current Stats Leaders

Points: Johnny Juzang, 17.1 ppg
Rebounds: Myles Johnson, 6.8 rpg
Assists: Tyger Campbell, 3.8 apg

Bigs? Leading rebounder Myles Johnson comes in at 6’11” and 255 pounds, so yeah, he’s big. He’s not much of a scoring threat though, at just 5.5 points per game in 22.9 minutes a night. Weirdly, KenPom says he has the 32nd best offensive rebounding rate in the country, so how he’s not scoring more is beyond me. Thanks to a late October ACL tear for Mac Etienne, the next biggest guy on the team is Kenneth Nwuba (6’9”, 255 pounds), but he’s playing less than 10 minutes a night while appearing in every game so far. Cody Riley (6’9”, 225 lbs) started and played four minutes in UCLA’s season opener against Cal State Bakersfield, but suffered a knee injury and hasn’t played since. Riley might be available for the Marquette game, but the Bruins won’t know until sometime during the day on Friday, long after I’m writing this.

Shooters? Oh yeah. UCLA is the 20th most accurate three-point shooting team in the country, connecting at a rate of 39.2%. Johnny Juzang, Jules Bernard, and Tyger Campbell all attempt at least four shots from behind the arc per game. David Singleton and Jaime Jaquez are both north of two tries per game. All five men are hitting at least 35% of their attempts, with Bernard, Campbell, and Singleton all over 44%. Strangely, the Bruins don’t rely on this shooting prowess, as they are just #296 in the country per KenPom in three-point attempt ratio. That’s weird, especially after UCLA shot 37% as a team last season.

Head Coach: I’m hearing Crick Monin. The Bruins are coached by Mick Cronin, whom you may remember from his 13 year run as head coach at Cincinnati. He is 47-23 at UCLA and 412-194 overall including a career opening three year stint at Murray State. However, Cronin is just 4-4 against Marquette, but he has won four of the last five times that MU has seen him.

What To Watch For: If that #4 next to UCLA up at the top of the page didn’t clue you in, I’ll just say it out loud: Marquette has to play their best game of the season in order to beat the Bruins.

That’s not just stating the obvious relative to “it’s hard to beat a top 5 ranked team,” either. UCLA has been kept under 1.07 points per possession on offense just once this season. Gonzaga held the Bruins to 0.89/possession and easily defeated them, 83-63. UCLA is, right now, the second most efficient offense will see all season according to KenPom, trailing only Villanova and just ahead of both Illinois and St. Bonaventure.

On the other end of the court, UCLA has been holding their own. They have allowed over 1.00 points per possession just twice this season. One was to the aforementioned “actually better on offense than UCLA” Villanova squad and the Bruins won in overtime by scoring 1.18 points/possession. The other one was, unsurprisingly, against Gonzaga when the Bulldogs torched UCLA for 1.17 points per possession. KenPom.com says the Bruins are, right now, the second toughest defense that Marquette will face all season, trailing only Wisconsin.

In short: UCLA has looked somewhere between Good and Great against everyone in the country except Gonzaga, one of five obvious national championship contenders, and they are likely to be the most complete both ends of the court team that Marquette plays all year.

Oh, and they’ve been doing this without Cody Riley, a former top 50 prospect who played and started in all but one game last season and averaged 10.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game and who miiiiight be available on Saturday.

I don’t really see any point in trying to give you tips on what might be the keys to Marquette’s victory here. Everyone on the roster — coaches included — needs to have an A+ outing for the Golden Eagles to have a chance at winning this game. Nothing about the preseason Marquette evaluation of “notably flawed” has truly changed to this point of the season. T-Rank barely has the Golden Eagles has a top 100 team once you eliminate preseason projections, and pretty much the only way to overcome that against a national championship contender is to play 40 minute of near-perfect basketball.

Can they do it? Sure. To paraphrase Jim Valvano, they’re going to play the game, so of course they have a chance.

All-Time Series: UCLA leads, 3-0. This will be the third game in the series to be played in Milwaukee, as last year’s loss in Los Angeles was Marquette’s first ever trip to Pauley Pavilion.