It’s a battle of the unbeaten on Friday when the No. 3 UCLA Bruins host the Princeton Tigers at Pauley Pavilion (2:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network). UCLA will be heavily favored in the matchup as the dominant Pac-12 team that looks even better than advertised, while Princeton is the scrappy road team about to be put to the test.
How good can the Bruins be?
In our Pac-12 preview, we had UCLA as the second-best team in the conference. They’re currently the third-best team in the country. The Bruins have dominated their unranked opponents, winning games by an average margin of 43.3 points. They’ll be looking to replicate that success against the Tigers.
UCLA might be a guard-driven team with the trio of grad student Charisma Osbourne, sophomore Londynn Jones and sophomore Kiki Rice serving as backbone of the offense, but it’s sophomore forward Gabriela Jaquez who has been the sun in the star-stacked roster. She is flirting with a double-double on a nightly basis, averaging 18.7 points and eight rebounds.
The Bruins’ objective will be to establish dominance early and make it an easy Friday morning in Westwood. But Princeton has other plans.
Unleashing the Tiger
Princeton will be putting their backcourt to the test versus UCLA with sophomore Madison St. Rose and senior Kaitlyn Chen, a greater Los Angeles native, looking to continue their hot start and lead the Tigers to the upset. The only path to victory requires the pair to be the best version of themselves and overwhelm the Bruins with a relentless offensive onslaught early and often.
Across college basketball, this year’s freshman class has impressed with their immediate impact, transitioning from high school to college play. Princeton has their own first-year sensation with Skye Belker, who also is from Los Angeles. The guard dropped 18 points in the victory over Middle Tennessee.
Belker’s role and how it will shift as the season continues is unknown. However, big game against the Bruins not only would put her name on the national map, but also put Princeton in position for the upset win. That’s a lot of hope to put on a young player, but she’s stood out so far. Let’s see if she can shine under the Hollywood lights of her hometown.
UCLA should take care of business early. They are at home and have the far better team on paper. If they are as good as their ranking, then handling Princeton should be an easy task.
But how good is Princeton? As it is still early in the season, results that today look like upsets might look like expected outcomes tomorrow. Maybe we are selling Princeton short and they're closer to a top 25 team than we think. A win on Friday would certainly have people rethinking the Tigers’ place in the national hierarchy.
Princeton Tigers (2-0) vs. No. 3 UCLA Bruins (3-0)
When: Friday, Nov. 17 at 2:30 p.m. ET
Where: Pauley Pavillion in Los Angeles, CA
How to watch: Pac-12 Network