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UCLA faces BYU in first contest since championship game loss

Nov 15, 2006 - 5:38 PM BYU (20-9) at No. 6 UCLA (32-7) 10:30 pm EST

LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- UCLA is one of the most storied programs in college basketball. On Wednesday, they will follow up a familiar finish to their season with a familiar campaign-opening foe.

For the seventh time, the Bruins will be opening their season with BYU in the first game for both squads.

It was doubtful many people in their NCAA Tournament office pools picked UCLA to go all the way to the NCAA Finals. But UCLA got on a roll at the right time, carried by a stifling half-court defense and lost to Florida in the championship game.

With multiple national titles, and legendary former players and coaches, the Bruins are used to making the Final Four. However, this season they will find out if they can keep the program headed in the right direction after some key losses.

In 2006-07, UCLA's biggest setback is the loss of point guard Jordan Farmer, who opted to go to the NBA. Sixth-man Darren Collison will be forced to become a starter and provide 30 or so solid minutes a night.

The Bruins lost three starters from last season's Pac-10 titleists, but have some quality personnel returning. Leading the returnees is shooting guard Arron Afflalo and sophomore forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who was voted Freshman of the Year last season.

The Cougars finished with a 20-9 record and an NIT appearance last season in the first year under Dave Rose. Rose was named the Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year.

He coached his team to a second-place MWC finish - one game behind league-champion San Diego State - while turning a 9-21 team into a success that proved to be the second-best improvement among all Division I programs.

BYU returns Trent Plaisted, the reigning MWC Freshman of the Year, and six returning seniors.

The Cougars lead the overall series with UCLA 11-10. BYU is the only team to have a winning record against UCLA with 20-plus meetings.

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