The UCLA Bruins will open the regular season Friday night at 7:30 in Pauley Pavilion against the Matadors from Cal State Northridge ("CSUN"). The Bruins won handily both of their preseason games against Westmont and Cal State Los Angeles while CSUN defeated Redlands 85-81 in overtime in their only preseason matchup.
CSUN, from the Big West conference, returns only one starter from last years' injury plagued season when their record was 11-21. They were, however, Big West champs two years ago. Overall, this years' edition of the Matadors is very young, but does have some talent. The Matadors are coached by Bobby Braswell, a former assistant at Oregon, who is now in his 15th season at CSUN.
The Matador's best player is 6-5 senior forward Rashaun McClemore, who when healthy, is an effective scorer in a variety of ways and also is very strong. The other forward is 6-9 freshman Jordan Mitchell from Gardena, Calif. Mitchell needs strength, but was a good high school player and has significant upside potential. At center Braswell will likely start 6-8 junior college transfer, John Hayward-Mayhew. Hayward-Mayhew is a good rebounder and shot blocker, but needs more offensive skills.
The guards for CSUN are 5-11 point guard Dathan Lyles and 6-5 senior Raymond Cody. Lyles is coming off of some significant injuries, but is a solid D-I point guard when healthy. Cody has been inconsistent throughout his career.
Although the Bruins have easily won their two exhibition games, and looked good doing it, they come into this opener with some injury issues.
The status of Reeves Nelson's hip flexor is not clear, although it is likely he will play. Also, Joshua Smith will likely still have his thumb wrapped. This minor injury significantly affected Smith's performance against Cal State Los Angeles.
Finally, guard Matt Carlino is still recovering from a concussion and may not be able to play. If everyone is able to play, we expect a starting lineup of Lazeric Jones, Malcolm Lee, Tyler Honeycutt, Reeves Nelson and Joshua Smith.
The Bruins can expect the Matadors to play pressure man to man defense with the possibility of a full court press on occasion. CSUN uses up to ten players and can be counted upon to be working extremely hard the entire game. Even so, this should result in a victory for the Bruins. However, if there is any kind of subpar play on the part of UCLA, CSUN is capable of staying in the game to the very end.