For two schools that have met just four times on a basketball court, UCLA and De Paul have a heated rivalry going. Each time the teams meet, the stakes are high and the entire country is watching.
Today will be no exception. For those who would rather not watch football bowl games that only the participants and their fans care about, No. 1 De Paul and No. 3 UCLA will meet in suburban Chicago's Horizon (2 p.m., WRC-TV-4) in one of those games that has basketball fans in an early season frenzy.
This is speed versus speed. These two teams have stunning talent and coaches who let them use it.
"We like to run," De Paul's Ray Meyer said. "I'm sure they're going to want to play an up-tempo but so will we. We'll both go out there and go hard for 40 minutes."
The same words will undoubtedly apply about four hours after De Paul and UCLA finish; Kentucky and Notre Dame stage their annual guerrilla warfare in Louisville. While De Paul-UCLA will be a contest of speed, speed and more speed, Kentucky-ND will be a matchup of strength, brute strength and unbelievable brute strength.
Kentucky has dominated this series, played in "neutral" Freedom Hall and Irish Coach Digger Phelps, tired of losing annually, go so upset a year ago that he threatened to pull out if Kentucky did not agree to make the series home and home. Phelps got his wish. So next year he has to play Joe B. Hall's brutes in Lexington. It will be two years before he gets them in South Bend.
This game will be decided inside. That means Kentucky should win. It will likely take the speed of a UCLA or a De Paul to beat Sam Bowie and friends this season, and ND lacks that quality.
In the afternoon game, De Paul will come in with an 8-0 record; UCLA is 6-0. The Blue Demons opened their season with a victory over defending national champion Louisville and UCLA began with an impressive rout of Notre Dame. Since then, each has been pointing toward today.
The individual matchup that will receive most of the attention will be Mark Agurre-Michael Sanders. Aguirre, De Paul's 6-foot-7 junior, is the toughest individual threat in the college game, especially when the backs his man in, turns and jumps over him.
"He's unstoppable for two basic reasons," said Joey Meyer, Coach Ray Meyer's son and No. 1 assistant. "First, he has the biggest hands in basketball. Second, he's got the biggest but in basketball."
This year's Aguirre is 30 pounds lighter that last year and will be a handful for Sanders to stop. But the UCLA junior, who played center the second half of last season, is accustomed to taking on players bigger and stronger than he is. He is unlikely to be intimidated.
Even though all will be watching Aguirre-Sanders, the matchup more likely to decide the outcome will be at point guard, where De Paul's Clyde Bradshaw and UCLA's Rod Foster are two of the three best (along with Indiana's Isiah Thomas) in the college games today.
Each makes his team go with devastating speed, a soft tough from the outside and the kind of quick hands that produce steals and easy baskets. They will also be the men who keep their teams playing under control since this may be a game decided by who knows when not to force the fast break.
UCLA Coach Larry Brown, who has no seniors in his lineup and only one junior (Sanders) who plays, is billing this game as a learning experience for his team, trying to keep as much pressure off as possible.
For De Paul, though, this is a revenge match. Last season, after embarrassing the Bruins, 99-94, in Pauley Pavilion in December, the Blue Demons, top-ranked then as now were stunned, 77-71, in the second round of the NCAA tournament by a UCLA team that finished the regular season 17-9.
Nothing will come easy on either side in this game. Short of the NCAA tournament itself, games don't come any more intense than this one.