Los Angeles, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - The Steve Alford regime will open up on
Friday night when his No. 22 UCLA Bruins take on the Drexel Dragons in a non-
conference bout at Pauley Pavilion.
There were heavy expectations placed on the Dragons entering last season after
the squad posted a school-record 29 wins the year prior and was considered one
of the biggest snubs on Selection Sunday. However, the Dragons were unable to
live up to their billing as they plummeted to just a 13-18 overall finish and
a meager 9-9 record against the Colonial Athletic Association in 2012-13. The
Dragons really hurt themselves on the back end of the schedule as they lost
five of eight games in the month of February. The issue was scoring for the
Dragons, who were one of the worst offensive teams in the CAA, negating the
benefits of the stingy defense they have always played under head coach
Bruiser Flint. There are three starters back from last year's squad, led by
the backcourt duo of Franz Massenat and Damion Lee.
Although the Bruins won the Pac-12 regular-season title, led the league in
scoring (74.4 ppg) and ended the year in the NCAA Tournament, Ben Howland was
still shown the door. Alford should take note as his predecessor went to three
Final Fours, but some slight stumbles cost him his job. Alford spent the
previous six seasons at New Mexico, during which he led the Lobos to three
NCAA Tournament appearances and no fewer than 22 wins in any season. However,
the Lobos never advanced beyond the Round of 32. Alford has some talented
pieces to work with even with leading scorer Shabazz Muhammad gone to the NBA.
Jordan Adams is a prolific scorer and Kyle Anderson brings a ton of
versatility. Alford's task is simple, but challenging, as the administration
grew tired of the mediocrity that colored the last four years of Howland's
These teams met for the first and only time during the 2005 NIT Tip-Off. In
that contest, Jordan Farmar netted a crucial free throw with less than a
second to play to lift the Bruins to a 57-56 victory.
If there is a positive to be taken out of last year for the Dragons it was how
well they continued to buy into Flint's defensive gameplan. Thanks to heavy
pressure in the backcourt the Dragons limited opponents to just 63.3 points
per game. Drexel found much less success on the other end as the team failed
to score at a high rate. In all the Dragons averaged 63 points per game on
41.2 percent shooting, ranking near the bottom of the CAA in each category.
The defense should be solid again, especially at the guard sports, with
Massenat (14.7 ppg, 4.2 apg) and Lee (17.1 ppg) back. Both were primary
scoring options for the Dragons, but Massenat needs to improve on a ghastly
36.5 field goal percentage. Dartaye Ruffin (6.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg) is the most
experienced frontcourt contributor on the roster. He started in all but one
game he played in last year. The rest of the rotation, which is normally a
small group, will feature Kazembe Abif (4.4 ppg) and Tavon Allen (6.6 ppg).
The Bruins should be able to make Alford's first year a success, even though
Muhammad and his 17.6 points per game are no longer around. Adams (15.3 ppg)
was arguably a more important player for the Bruins as he was a multi-
dimensional talent contributing at both ends. Then there is nightmare matchup
and versatile contributor Kyle Anderson (9.7 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 3.5 apg). At 6-9,
Anderson is a tough target for any guard or forward to stop and his ability to
fill the stat sheet is invaluable. Normal Powell (6.1 ppg) will also work into
the backcourt rotation. One of the three or possibly a newcomer needs to take
over the point since Larry Drew (7.5 ppg, 7.3 apg) is gone. Travis and David
Wear will again be anchors in the frontcourt. Travis (10.9 ppg, 5.2 rpg) is
the returning starter and the more talented of the two. That's not to say
David (7.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg) isn't more than capable of producing at a high level.
The frontcourt also looks improved thanks to center Tony Parker, who started
in both of the Bruins' preseason games and hung up a 17-point, 16-rebound
effort in one of those contests.
The Sports Network