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UCLA Basketball: The Weekend of the Arizonas

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While most LA basketball fans are in rapt attention while watching the Lakers start their normal mid-season crash due to injuries and enjoying the Clippers being the Clippers, let’s not forget we have another championship caliber basketball team in town: the UCLA Bruins.

Currently ranked fifth in the nation by both the AP and Coaches polls, they haven’t looked as dominant as they did at the beginning of the season. With injuries to forward Luc Richard Mbah-a-Moute, center Lorenzo Mata-Real and guard Darren Collison, the team has relied freshman center Kevin Love who is leading the team with 17.3 points and 11.3 assists per game.

Now is the part where I gush endlessly about Love. For a freshman, he has a great all-around game. He passes like no one since Bill Walton, and he can score from anywhere on the court. He will push his way down in the post and effortlessly shoot threes when the situation presents itself.

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While he may not have the gaudy score lines of other freshmen savants like USC’s OJ Mayo (19.9 points per game) and Indiana’s Eric Gordon (21.7 points per game), the maturity of Love’s game is more beneficial in leading the Bruins to victory. And what’s really spectacular about him is he is doing this despite looking awfully clunky at times on the court.

And the Bruins will need every bit of Love’s clunk this weekend at home tonight and Saturday night against Arizona State and Arizona respectively.

Arizona State has broken out this season as a formidable team going 14-5 overall and 4-3 in the Pac-10. Unfortunately the Sun Devils have lost the last three games due to the groin injury of their star freshman guard James Harden who leads the team with 18.8 points per game. Though he should be ready to go full strength, there is no way he, forward Jeff Pendergraph and guard Ty Abbott can deal with the Bruin defense. And the Bruins have too many offensive weapons for the Sun Devil defense.

On Saturday the Wildcats come to town in a down year of sorts. Head coach Lute Olsen took a leave of absence this season, and though they haven't completely melted down a la the Clippers they are not the power they once were. Surprising losses to the Sun Devils and the Oregon Ducks could have sent them reeling, but they got a convincing 76-64 win against the then #6 Washington State Cougars last week have them on the right track again. But they have a tough game at the Galen Center against the Trojans tomorrow night, so who knows how much they will have left in the tank on Saturday.

This should be a very good weekend of basketball for all of you, and there should be no mention of the words "Lakers" and "Clippers".

UCLA hosts Arizona State tonight at 7:30 pm on FSN Prime Ticket and KTLK 1150 AM.

UCLA hosts Arizona Saturday night at 6:00 pm on ESPN (NATIONAL COVERAGE!) and KLAC 570 AM.

AP Photo by Rick Bowmer