With an unusually young team, Mike Brey set up a soft nonconference schedule for Notre Dame. The three toughest opponents — Oklahoma, UCLA and Purdue — show up in a row and the Fighting Irish face all three away from home.
After falling to the Sooners 85-80 on Tuesday in New York, the Irish stop in L.A. on Saturday night. Brey’s go-to guy is junior T.J. Gibbs, one of the top guards in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Notre Dame has big guards (6-6 D.J. Harvey and 6-6 Rex Pflueger) and some size inside (6-9 forward John Mooney and 6-11 Juwan Durham) to combat the Bruins.
Moses Brown, UCLA’s hyped 7-foot-1 freshman, is a raw offensive player. But the Bruins do have skilled guards, especially sophomores Jaylen Hands and Kris Wilkes.
UCLA struggles in half-court sets and thrives in an open-court style of play. Brey, who probably wants to slow the tempo, is a better tactical coach than Steve Alford.
The Ken Pomeroy ratings (UCLA No. 48; Notre Dame No. 57) accurately tell the story of two teams that probably will miss the NCAA Tournament this season. If Gibbs delivers a big game, the Irish should take the Bruins to the wire.
Play: (795) Notre Dame (plus-6) over UCLA
Other plays for Saturday:
(723) South Carolina (plus-17½) over Michigan
(729) Kentucky-Seton Hall (Under 141)
(733) Pittsburgh (plus-10) over West Virginia
(738) Illinois (-7) over UNLV
(743) Saint Josephs (plus-12) over Villanova
(768) Oklahoma State (-2) over Houston
(778) Marquette (-1) over Wisconsin
(791) Dayton (plus-15½) over Auburn
(804) Connecticut (plus-9) over Florida State
(827) Sacramento State (plus-1) over Portland