For those UCLA fans out there struggling to cope with the sub-par season thus far put up by the Bruins football, there's hope for you yet. the ESPN/USA Today preseason college basketball Top 25 rankings were recently released, and your Bruins just so happen to have made the cut.
UCLA will begin the year as the No. 20 team in the country according to the poll, joining the likes of Arizona (16) and Cal (24) as the Pac-12 representatives in the preseason Top 25; Gonzaga (23) is the only other West Coast school in the mix. The Bruins had a very strong showing during their 2010-11 campaign, finishing 22-10 overall and 13-5 in conference play, falling in the second round of the NCAA tournament to the Florida Gators. They will be returning a number of key players from last year's squad, including Reeves Nelson, the team's top offensive stat holder from last year.
Taking a look at UCLA's schedule, the Bruins will have a lot of modest competition this year, but also a few tough games down the stretch. The first real test for them will likely come on New Year's Eve against Cal, followed by a meeting with the Arizona Wildcats on Jan. 5. They also have meetings with Oregon and Washington on Jan. 21 and Feb. 2 respectively. They also will have two more meetings with Cal and Arizona towards the end of the year as well.
Of course there are a number of East Coast juggernauts atop the rankings, with North Carolina coming in on top, getting 30 first place votes compared to only one for No. 2 Kentucky. Ohio State, Connecticut and Syracuse round out the top five, with the Duke Blue Devils patiently waiting in the wings at No. 6.