This was a relatively light week for many of the LA Eight, the college hoops teams of LA and Orange County. The Cal State system and many other schools had finals last week, and most schools scheduled only a single game, many of those against non-Division I competition. UCLA bucked that trend though, with three games during the week. The Bruins also seem to be getting their season back on track in the wake of Reeves Nelson's dismissal from the team.
The LA Eight Rankings (through games of December 20):
1. Long Beach St. 5-5 (Last week: 1)
We didn't learn anything new about Long Beach St. this week. Of course they beat Eastern New Mexico in the Pyramid - that was a given. We'll learn a lot more in the next few days, as the Beach heads to Honolulu and the Diamond Head Classic. The 49ers got a terrible first round draw in the tournament, facing Xavier, the only ranked team in the eight team field, but then they caught a break - Xavier will be without two starters who are serving suspensions. If the 49ers can beat Xavier, the tournament championship is there for the taking, and with all the games on ESPN, they would get a ton of exposure.
This week: Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Opening opponent #15 Xavier (8-1)
2. CS Fullerton 7-3 (2)
A win over D-III LaVerne runs the record to 7-3, but this remains an untested team. With only Portland St. left in the non-conference schedule, it looks like the Titans will enter Big West play with a fairly impressive record, but having proven little.
This week: Portland St. (6-5) Thursday.
3. UCLA 6-5 (4)
Stop the presses, the Bruins are above .500. Actually, against D-I teams they're exactly .500, but why nitpick? UCLA has won four straight, and 5 of 6. They are undefeated and seemingly much more focused since last season's leading scorer Nelson was dismissed from the team, which would seem to indicate that Nelson was indeed a distraction. Granted, a three-win week is less impressive when the opponents come from the Big Sky and Big West, but there's no arguing with a cumulative score of 231-146 over three games. The best news of all is that the team seems to be back playing the stifling defense that is a trademark of Ben Howland teams.
This week: Richmond (7-5) Friday.
4. Loyola Marymount 6-5 (3)
The Lions played a tough opponent on the road last Saturday and lost to Florida State, 77-61. LMU has yet to play a game at full strength this season, and faced the Seminoles with neither Drew Viney nor Ashley Hamilton. They hope to have both of them back soon, hopefully in time for the beginning of WCC play. This remains a potentially dangerous team if they ever get everyone healthy at the same time.
This week: @ Morgan State (1-7) Wednesday, Vanguard Tuesday.
5. USC 5-7 (5)
A USC team that has struggled on offense all season scored a season high 83 points while beating TCU on Monday. That's more than double their point total in three losses this season. They shot 51% from the field and made 8 threes. Freshman Alexis Moore scored 30 points during the week, including 18 in a close loss to Georgia. If Moore, or really anyone, can step up and help Maurice Jones on offense, it will make a huge difference for the Trojans. They host #11 Kansas tomorrow night in their toughest test of the season and they better hope the shots keep falling.
This week: Kansas (7-3) Thursday.
6. Pepperdine 6-4 (6)
A week after allowing Northridge to score 49 second half points, Pepperdine had their best defensive effort in almost 60 years, holding Montana State to just 36 points. The 59-36 victory was Pepperdine's first double digit win of the season. The Waves now travel to Seattle to face Washington State at KeyArena. Pepperdine has already beaten one Pac-12 team this season (ASU): can they beat another?
This week: Washington State (7-4) Thursday in Seattle.
7. UC Irvine 2-9 (7)
A tough week for the Anteaters. They kept it respectable in Baton Rouge against LSU, losing 66-59, but didn't put up much resistance against UCLA last night, 69-44. Irvine shot 38% against the Bruins, consistent with their 39% as a team this season. The 62% they shot against San Diego in their lone D-I win is looking like one of the great statistical outliers of all time.
This week: Hope Internaional Thursday.
8. CS Northridge 3-6 (8)
The Matadors are on a two game winning streak! Of course, the second game came against something called "Pacifica". I live next to the Pacific, and I have no idea what a "Pacifica" is. I know it ain't a D-I school.
This week: @ Washington (5-5) Thursday.
If you go to only one college basketball game in the Southland this week, make it:
USC vs. Kansas at the Galen Center, Thursday at 8:00 PM. It's a chance to see a highly ranked team, and the Galen Center is a great place to watch basketball.