UCLA basketball: Bruins get 'easy' opener in Maui Invitational
It's being touted as one of the strongest Maui Invitational fields in the history of the tournament, with Duke, Kansas, Memphis, Georgetown, Tennessee and Michigan among the potential opponents for UCLA.
So the Bruins had to feel some relief Thursday when it was announced that their opening-round game Nov. 21 at the Lahaina Civic Center would be against ... Chaminade.
That's right, UCLA gets the tiny host school and a probable victory before taking on the winner of a game between Kansas and Georgetown in a semifinal the next day.
With apologies to Lee Corso, not so fast.
Remember that these are essentially the same Bruins who lost to Montana last season and had narrow misses against UC Irvine, Oregon State, etc. Getting up for an underdog was an issue all the way into the Pacific 10 Conference tournament, where UCLA was blown out by Oregon.
So the schedule makers might not have done the Bruins any favors. Chaminade has a 6-73 record all-time in the tournament, most famously defeating top-ranked Virginia and Ralph Sampson in 1982.
Duke, by the way, has won the event all four times it has been a participant, most recently in 2007. UCLA is 6-3 in the tournament, having won in its last appearance in 2006.
The organizers changed the makeup of the event this year, adding a wrinkle in which the teams headed to Maui first play a game on the mainland. UCLA will play Middle Tennessee State on Nov. 15 at the Sports Arena, but the results of the game will have no bearing on whether the Bruins advance to Maui.
-- Ben Bolch
Photo: UCLA teammates Lazeric Jones, left, and Tyler Lamb walk off the court after losing to Oregon in the quarterfinals of the Pacific Life Pac 10 tournament at Staples Center. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times