UCLA back-ends schedule in advance of second year under Alford

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer

Steve Alford reached the Sweet 16 in his first year as Bruins coach. (USATSI)

As we head to August, we'll be seeing more and more teams release their schedules. July is a time for most coaches to seal up those final few, precious dates for non-conference games.

Today it's UCLA. While the Bruins haven't scheduled in a challenging way like in-conference foe Stanford, it's still a pretty solid slate. There is only one out-of-league road game, though: at Alabama, which is the final non-con game Steve Alford scheduled for 2014-15.

"Upgrading our program's schedule has been a priority for us all along, and we believe this is a big step in the right direction," UCLA coach Steve Alford said via statement. "When you factor in three games in an extremely competitive field at the Battle for Atlantis and three more games, all in a row, against Gonzaga, Kentucky and Alabama, we are confident that this schedule will prepare us for the Pac-12 grind and help position us for success in March."

You get Gonzaga and UK on the schedule, it's definitely an upgrade. And Kentucky on a true neutral court? Not bad at all. Both the Zags and Wildcats will have good shots at making the Sweet 16 or better next season, which is nice news for the Bruins of Uck-luh. The Battle 4 Atlantis should also help UCLA's ratings. Butler, Florida, Georgetown, North Carolina, Oklahoma, UAB and Wisconsin are in the field. The matchups haven't been determined yet, but UCLA will get games against three of those teams.

Definitely some solid opportunities.

Here's the full non-league schedule:

Date Opponent Venue

Nov. 14 Montana State Pauley Pavilion

Nov. 16 Coastal Carolina Pauley Pavilion

Nov. 20 Nicholls State Pauley Pavilion

Nov. 23 Long Beach State Pauley Pavilion

Nov. 26 Battle 4 Atlantis ^ Atlantis Resort (The Bahamas)

Nov. 27 Battle 4 Atlantis ^ Atlantis Resort (The Bahamas)

Nov. 28 Battle 4 Atlantis ^ Atlantis Resort (The Bahamas)

Dec. 3 Cal State Fullerton Pauley Pavilion

Dec. 7 San Diego Pauley Pavilion

Dec. 10 UC Riverside Pauley Pavilion

Dec. 13 Gonzaga Pauley Pavilion

Dec. 20 vs. Kentucky United Center (Chicago, Ill.)

Dec. 28 at Alabama Coleman Coliseum (Tucsaloosa, Ala.)

UCLA wound up as a No. 4 seed last year, falling to No. 1 Florida in the regional semifinals. Alford's club lost lottery pick/freshman Zach LaVine, as well as sophomores Jordan Adams (22nd to Memphis) and Kyle Anderson, who was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round.

UCLA brings in the seventh-ranked recruiting class, led by power forward Kevon Looney.

The Bruins bring back point guard Bryce Alford, big man Tony Parker, stable vet/shooting guard Norman Powell and possible breakout sophomore forward Wanaah Bail. It's not clear how good UCLA will be next year -- the schedule is tough enough to give the team plenty of tests but not so tough that Alford's crew will be hampered with six or more losses by the time Pac-12 play begins.

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