UCLA's nonconference basketball schedule will be the road least traveled

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UCLA head coach Mick Cronin shouts at his team as they take on Michigan State during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019, in Lahaina, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)
UCLA coach Mick Cronin shouts at his team during a game against Michigan State on Nov. 27, 2019, in Lahaina, Hawaii. (Marco Garcia / Associated Press)

UCLA’s basketball team will leave Southern California only once as part of the nonconference schedule it released Tuesday, the No. 22 Bruins traveling to play Kentucky in Cleveland on Dec. 19 as part of the CBS Sports Classic.

The Bruins will open the season with games against San Diego State on Nov. 25 and Pepperdine on Nov. 27 at Viejas Arena in San Diego as part of a four-team event that was concocted after their original season-opening games in Orlando, Fla., were canceled because of concerns about testing protocol related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It will be the first time in 80 years that UCLA will open a season with a road game against an opponent from Southern California. The Bruins last did it when they opened the 1940-41 season with two road games at San Diego State.

UCLA’s home opener will be Nov. 30 against Long Beach State at Pauley Pavilion. Next come home games Dec. 3 against Seattle, Dec. 9 against San Diego and Dec. 11 against Marquette.

The Bruins will also play two Pac-12 rivals in December as part of an expanded 20-game conference schedule. California will play UCLA at Pauley Pavilion on Dec. 6 before the Bruins travel to face Oregon on Dec. 23 at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene.

Bruins coach Mick Cronin said earlier this week that he wanted to play as many strong opponents as early as possible to bolster his team’s strength of schedule for NCAA tournament selection purposes in case other games get canceled because of the virus. San Diego State is coming off a 30-win season and Pepperdine returns one of the top players in the West Coast Conference in Colbey Ross.

“We’ve got to schedule as many good games as you can,” Cronin said, “with the anticipation you might lose some.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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