Countdown to Tipoff: ZERO days!
The season is finally here! Tonight at 11:30 PM EST, Tech will tipoff against UCLA from halfway across the world in the Alibaba sponsored China game. After a sweet sixteen run a season ago, UCLA comes into the game ranked 21st in the preseason AP poll.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably aware that it’s been an interesting week for both teams. The Jackets were dealing with....this....while three UCLA players have been arrested for shoplifting and are now facing potential jail time. It will be very interesting to see how both teams handle the adversity and if it could potentially give either team an advantage.
The Bruins come into this game losing five of their top seven scorers and rebounders from a year ago. The good news is that after flirting with heading to the NBA, Aaron Holiday and Thomas Welsh both return, alongside incoming five star freshmen Kris Wilkes and Jaylen Hands. The Bruins will be heavily relying on those four players after losing so much from a year ago. Senior Gyorgy Golomon is projected to be the fifth starter with freshman Cody Riley among the three suspended Bruins. Golomon averaged just 4 points per game in just under 12 minutes per game last season.
After having the nations second best offense a year ago (per Kenpom), the Bruins will be looking to once again light up the scoreboard with the additions of Hands and Wilkes, two of the best scorers in the 2017 class. Hands is lightning quick and super bouncy and can find his way to the basket with ease. Meanwhile, Wilkes is nearly impossible to stop in transition and has shown a major ability to score inside the paint. These two players will only continue to improve as the season goes on and Tech is lucky to face them early in their college careers, when they may still be adjusting to the college game.
The matchup to watch will be Thomas Welsh against Ben Lammers, two of the top centers in their respective conferences. Lammers will be tasked with slowing down the super efficient Welsh, who shot 59% from the field and 89% from the line last season. Welsh rarely misses an open jumper and if Lammers is sucked too much into rim protection duty, Welsh could have a field day from mid-range. Additionally, Welsh was one of the better rebounders in the PAC-12 conference and the battle on the boards will be critical to the Jackets chances.
Until game time, Bruins fans may want to peruse this...