The good news on the SoCal college basketball scene this week came mostly from Orange County, where Fullerton had a pair of wins and UCLA got its second Division I victory of the season in their home away from home away from home, the Honda Center in Anaheim.
But the good news was for the most part outweighed by the bad news. For UCLA, it's hard to get too excited about a four point win over an Ivy League school. But more importantly, the team this week dismissed last season's leading scorer, Reeves Nelson. That may end up being a good thing as compared to what has been happening, since Nelson had already been suspended twice and was clearly a major distraction for the team. But Nelson was supposed to be one of the best players on the team this season, so losing him is not a good thing.
Other than that, there were just a lot of losses for LA schools during the week. After Long Beach State and Fullerton, it's pretty difficult to tell the teams apart. They've all been pretty bad. Let's get to the rankings.
The LA Eight Rankings (through games of December 13)
1. Long Beach St. 4-5 (Last week: 1)
Although Long Beach St. lost to North Carolina (now No. 5) in Chapel Hill, it was an impressive performance by the 49ers. The Beach led the game at halftime, and well into the second half. They kept the game within reach the entire way, but couldn't get over the hump in the end. It took a career-night from John Henson (24 points on 12 for 17 shooting) to hold Long Beach off as Casper Ware went for a career high 29. It remains to be seen if come March the selection committee will remember how well the 49ers played in Chapel Hill in December - with their brutal schedule, Long Beach St. now has a losing record. But they're still the best team in LA.
This week: Eastern New Mexico Monday.
2. CS Fullerton 6-3 (5)
As the only team in five area codes to be more than a game over .500, Fullerton moves up to second on the list this week. I'm still not convinced that the Titans are particularly good as they don't have anything remotely resembling a quality win. A 30 point victory on the road against Utah last Wednesday may seem impressive, but the Utes are a complete mess right now, so it's hard to tell. Still, wins are wins, and Eastern Washington on Sunday was Fullerton's sixth victim this season, so they get the nod. The Titans are getting a team effort on offense, with four players averaging between 13 and 16 points per game. Can they compete with Long Beach St. and Santa Barbara in the Big West? It's still very hard to say, but we'll find out soon enough.
This week: La Verne Saturday.
3. Loyola Marymount 6-4 (2)
After an injury-plagued season last year, LMU was hoping to avoid a similar fate this year, but so far it has not been the case. Last season's leading scorer Drew Viney had off-season foot surgery, and though he has returned in a limited role, he's still not 100%. Meanwhile Ashley Hamilton was leading the team in scoring this season before suffering a foot injury of his own. The Lions have yet to have Viney and Hamilton together in a game this season, but managed to get an overtime win Saturday against Idaho State without either of them. It was LMU's second OT win over the Bengals this season.
This week: @ Florida State (7-3) Saturday.
4. UCLA 3-5 (6)
At least the Bruins can now move forward without the distraction of Reeves Nelson. The front line still should be strong, with Joshua Smith and the Wear twins; but Smith is having trouble staying on the floor between fouls and conditioning. The biggest problem for the Bruins continues to be perimeter defense - Penn guard Tyler Benardini lit them up for 29. It's a busy week for the Bruins - one in which they need to build a little positive momentum against some weak opponents.
This week: Eastern Washington (5-4) Wednesday; UC Davis (1-8) Saturday; UC Irvine (2-7) Tuesday.
5. USC 4-6 (4)
We've known all along that USC's main problems this year would be scoring and depth. They lost on Saturday to New Mexico, scoring 41 points in the process. That comes one week after a loss in which they scored 40 points, and earlier this season they put up 36 in a loss. So yeah, scoring is an issue. As for depth, well the Trojans got a grand total of 2 points off the bench against the Lobos. Furthermore, while leading scorer Maurice Jones put up 19, the rest of the roster could manage only 22 combined.
This week: Georgia (4-5) Saturday.
6. Pepperdine 5-4 (3)
After getting their third road win of the season in Flagstaff against Northern Arizona, the Waves turned around and lost to a winless Northridge team. I did not make the trip to Malibu that night (the only times I've seen the Waves play this season they've lost badly), but I did watch the second half on my computer. The Waves led at halftime by 6 but let the Matadors light them up in the second half. Coincidence? When Pepperdine has won, it has been with defense; but they allowed Northridge to hang 49 second half points on them Saturday.
This week: Montana State (5-4) Sunday.
7. UC Irvine 2-7 (7)
The offensive outburst the Anteaters experienced when they scored 99 points in their first win of the season against San Diego was short-lived: they lost last night in Wyoming while scoring 48 points and shooting 38% from the field. No one on the team scored in double figures in the loss. Ouch. Looks like a tough week ahead too, with road games against LSU and UCLA.
This week: @ LSU (6-3) Thursday; @ UCLA (3-5) Tuesday.
8. CS Northridge 2-6 (8)
The good news for the pride of southland hoops is that Northridge finally got a Division I win this week; the bad news is that they did it against Pepperdine. The Matadors used some red hot second half shooting to erase a six point half time deficit. They shot a season-high 45% from the field for the game - and they were shooting about 33% coming into the game. Funny thing about basketball - you win more games when you make some shots.
This week: Pacifica Saturday.
If you go to only one college basketball game in the Southland this week, make it:
UCLA vs. Irvine at the Sports Arena, Tuesday at 7:30 PM. Many of the schools are in Finals this week and have light schedules for the team. Neither of these squads have been playing particularly well, but it's a chance to see two southland schools at the same time. It will be interesting to see how many UCLA students show up for this one.