UCLA Unveils New Roster, New PauleyPosted by AMurawa on November 10th, 2012
It was to be a celebration of UCLA basketball. They were opening New Pauley Pavilion, complete with the newly unveiled statue of legendary coach John Wooden. There were numerous Bruin greats on hand for the festivities, as Lucius Allen, Marques Johnson, Rod Foster, Reggie Miller, Don MacLean, Ed O’Bannon and Wooden’s great-grandson Tyler Trapani were all introduced in the lead-up to tipoff, while others like Tyus Edney (the UCLA basketball director of operations), Baron Davis, Cedric Bozeman, Dijon Thompson and even former head coach Jim Harrick were spotted as well. Outside they were projecting footage of past great UCLA contests (I spied some of the ’73 national championship game) on the front façade of the building. Heck, even the choice of opponent was a nod toward the past, as Indiana State is the only other head coaching job Wooden ever held. The cheerleaders and the band helped Chancellor Gene Block welcome the fans in and all was grand in UCLA land, as aside from the sparkling new facilities, the Bruins were welcoming in a talented batch of newcomers with a load of expectations upon them.
Then, shortly after the doors opened to let the fans in and take a poke around, athletic director Dan Guerrero met with the media and issued a statement announcing the NCAA decision declaring Shabazz Muhammad ineligible. While expected, the timing of the announcement cast something of a pall over the party. Then the game started. And it got worse. UCLA scored two points in its first seven possessions and 36 points in a 37-possession first half. Freshman phenom Kyle Anderson missed a handful of layups, a pair of free throws, and got beat off the bounce a couple of times. He did, however, deliver a couple of deft passes in the lane, each of which led to a blown layup. The Wear twins combined to remind everybody of their propensity to miss bunnies, Larry Drew II was largely invisible, and a crowd that was pumped just before tip-off sat on their hands and yawned.
But, for those back east who went to bed after a lackluster first half (I’ll admit, that thing had me yawning too) that might think that the sky is falling again in Westwood, the Bruins definitely got things going for stretches in the second half. The highlight was the “other” freshman, Jordan Adams, the lowest-rated of the UCLA kids (although, at #41 nationally, that’s still pretty good), who debuted to the tune of 21 points, eight boards and a ton of energy plays that got the Bruins out of their slumber. Anderson kicked things into higher gear in the second half, winding up with a double-double that could have been even better –he had a few shots rim out and could have easily wound up with several more than his credited five points. And, best of all, the Bruin defense, expected to be a concern especially without Muhammad, held the Sycamores to 0.8 points per possession. Now, certainly, ISU is not the major litmus test for a defense, given that they weren’t that good last season on offense and graduated four seniors. And yes, Anderson did get beaten off the bounce a couple times in the first half by ISU’s athletic wing, Manny Arop. And, they struggled to clean the defensive glass in the first half. But the second half largely saw a different team. They grabbed better than 80% of defensive rebound opportunities. Guys like Drew and sophomore guard Norman Powell got after it defensively on the perimeter. And, after losing some focus after building up a 20-point margin, the team responded to a well-placed Howland timeout (now there’s a phrase that ain’t used much) and turned the gas back on down the stretch, bumping the lead up as high as 30.
So, let’s review. Kyle Anderson didn’t play all that well and was still amazing. Jordan Adams came out of nowhere and showed energy and offensive punch. The team is clearly willing and able to listen to head coach Ben Howland. And they defensively dominated a team they should defensively dominate. If and when you take all of that and add a Muhammad with something to prove, you’ve got yourself a national championship contender. But even if Muhammad somehow never wears a UCLA uniform, this is capable of being a very good team.