Dec 28, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide guard Levi Randolph (20) defends against UCLA Bruins guard Bryce Alford (20) during the second half at Pauley Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama Basketball 2014-2015 Non-Conference Previews: UCLA

The University of Alabama men’s basketball team announced its 2014–2015 non-conference basketball schedule on August 8. Although several headline matchups are carryovers from last year, there were a few unexpected teams added to the lineup.

Alabama basketball limped to a 13–19 (7–11 SEC) record last season and many believe that Alabama’s extremely difficult non-conference schedule was a limiting factor to the team’s success on the court.

With Anthony Grant coaching for his job and one of the best point guards in Alabama history gone to play professionally, this is a pivotal year for the Crimson Tide.

Grant’s first losing season as a head coach wasn’t well-received, to put it lightly, but an easier non-conference schedule and some promising returning talent could allow the Tide to rebound from a horrendous season a year ago.

Alabama finished the 2013–2014 regular season with the seventh toughest schedule in the nation, thanks in part to early season matchups against Duke, UCLA and Wichita State. Although the Tide will see several tough opponents in the early going this year, it should be smoother sailing into conference play in 2014–2015.

Join us as we preview the Crimson Tide’s 2014–2015 non-conference schedule over the next 13 days.

December 28 – vs. UCLA

Alabama’s final rematch game of the non-conference schedule will be one of the biggest non-conference games at Coleman Coliseum in recent memory.

The UCLA Bruins (28–9, 12–6 Pac–12) will come to town after defeating the Crimson Tide at Pauley Pavilion 75–67.

Alabama was able to extend an early lead into halftime last season, but despite a 34 point effort from Trevor Releford the Crimson Tide couldn’t pull off the upset. Releford tied up the game within the final two minutes, but the Bruins sealed the deal from the line.

Anthony Grant’s defense was able to limit the powerful UCLA offensive attack which finished No. 12 in the nation in total scoring, averaging 81.8 points per game.

The 2014–2015 Bruins’ team will look much different from last year’s variant. Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson and freshman phenom Zach LaVine are all on active NBA rosters.

Second-year UCLA head coach Steve Alford will have to replace 41.4 points per game, which is a tough task for any coach, no matter the program.

Senior guard Norman Powell returns as the leading scorer from last year’s team. Powell averaged 11.4 points per game, good enough for third on the team.

Steve Alford’s sons Bryce and Kory Alford may see extended playing time with the Bruins’ departures to the NBA. Bryce played in 37 games and averaged 8 points and 2.8 assists per game.

With major question marks and depth issues, UCLA isn’t a favorite to return to the Sweet 16, but don’t count out the Bruins. UCLA is notorious for playing successful young players, so the next Hollywood star could be waiting in the wings.

This will be a huge game to bolster Alabama’s chances of making postseason play this year.

Although both teams have some question marks at the guard position, the Crimson Tide should have an edge in experience, returning a good core group of senior talent.

If Alabama fans embrace this opportunity to see the Crimson Tide take on one of the nation’s premiere programs, the atmosphere in Coleman Coliseum could make a difference.

Once again, sophomore forward Jimmie Taylor could be the difference maker in this game. UCLA struggled all last year down low, averaging 35.6 rebounds per game. If Taylor can dominate inside the Crimson Tide have a good chance at notching a victory.

Tomorrow’s game preview: January 2 – vs. North Florida

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