UCLA Week: Players Not Returning

Posted by AMurawa on August 14th, 2012

Last year the Bruins started two seniors in their backcourt, ensuring that the 2012-13 squad would have a new batch of guards. But along with those graduating seniors, three different Bruin frontcourt players that earned time in 2011-12 are no longer with the program. Below we’ll break down those five players in roughly the order of the degree to which they’ll be missed.

Lazeric Jones – He spent just two seasons in Westwood after transferring in from a Chicago junior college, but Jones had a very solid career for the Bruins. In his first year he stepped right into the point guard role and provided much-needed stability along with a capacity for putting the ball in the hole himself when he needed to. Playing with talented wing players like Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee, Jones led the team in assists, steals and free throw percentage while chipping in a respectable nine points per game. As a senior, he gladly took on the role of playing off of the ball more as classmate Jerime Anderson took over most of the lead guard duties. Jones again adjusted well to his new role, picking up more of the scoring duties (he led the team in scoring with 13.5 points per game), while still leading the team in assists from the two-guard slot. He also led the team in minutes and, along with Anderson, took on a leadership role for a team that was in disarray following their disastrous start amid serious chemistry problems. While he won’t go down on the list of all-time UCLA greats at the point, he overachieved in his time in Westwood and displayed a heart and toughness that endeared him to Bruin fans — his leadership will be missed.

Lazeric Jones, UCLA

In Just Two Seasons At UCLA, Zeke Jones Endeared Himself To Bruin Fans

Jerime Anderson – Anderson’s career at UCLA was, in a very generous word, underwhelming. At one point considered a four-star recruit and the #5 point guard in the 2008 recruiting class, it quickly became quite apparent that he was not all he was cracked up to be. After mostly sitting behind veteran Darren Collison in his freshman season, Anderson was the heir apparent to the point guard position in 2009-10. But he struggled with his shot, turnovers and, most obviously, defense early in that year, and as the Bruins’ losses piled up, his minutes decreased. In 2010-11, both his expectations and minutes were fewere. But in a fine bit of redemption, Anderson was actually a very solid player last season for the Bruins. As a whole, his college career is a case of unwarranted expectations that had no chance of being met turning into expectations so low that his almost nine points per game and turnovers on 20% of used possessions qualifies as a feel-good story. Read the rest of this entry »

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Morning Five: 08.07.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 7th, 2012

  1. We mentioned in yesterday’s M5 that Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun was recovering well after surgery to repair his hip from a cycling accident suffered over the weekend. According to an orthopedic surgeon not affiliated with Calhoun’s treatment, the standard recovery time for this surgery ranges between eight to 12 weeks. Basketball practice begins in earnest in nine weeks, so there’s a strong possibility that the beginning of a rebuilding season in Storrs is already off to a rough start. As Mike Decourcy writes, Connecticut as a program faces a number of long-term issues with the 70-year old Calhoun undoubtedly reaching the end of his career soon — his latest health dust-up only serves to complicate those very important issues.
  2. It’s probably not often that we’ll choose a valuable M5 blurb to write about a player who only averaged a half-point and 1.8 rebounds per contest last season. But UCLA’s Anthony Stover dismissed from the team Monday for academic problems — is a statistical anomaly of sorts — the 6’10″ rising junior only saw eight minutes a game in Ben Howland’s system, but he still managed to block shots at a higher rate in limited time (18.2%) than Kansas’ Jeff Withey (15.3%) and Kentucky’s Anthony Davis (13.8%). Of course, for every block Stover registered last season (38), he also recorded a foul (37), so there’s clearly a learning curve he must still conquer. Still, for a mid-major willing to work with the young man in the classroom, the potential (at least on the defensive end) is there.
  3. Quiet among all the other newsworthy things the NCAA has done lately, the governing body has implemented a number of new player eligibility standards that will be phased in by 2016. So why is this important now? As Dana O’Neil explains in this wide-ranging piece, high school freshmen for the Class of 2016 will report to their freshman years at high school in the next few weeks. The new requirements increase the number of core curriculum courses to 16 (10 of which must be completed in the player’s first three years of high school, and seven of those must be in math, science, or English classes), raise the minimum GPA from 2.0 to 2.3, and generally scare the bejeezus out of college coaches everywhere. According to the NCAA, 43 percent of players who entered college basketball in 2009-10 would not have been eligible to play as freshmen under these new standards. Well, that solves the fake coursework problem — now, on to the AAU problem.
  4. More on this later today, but the Legends Classic released its faux-bracket yesterday, and we could be in for quite an early season treat in the new Barclays Arena during Feast Week if things work out. This event is one of those preseason “tournaments” where the semifinal teams are prospectively placed regardless of what happens in the earlier rounds, but if both Indiana and UCLA beat their semifinal opponents (Georgia and Georgetown, respectively), we could be treated with an epic neutral site showdown between two of the nation’s top five teams. Both IU and UCLA boast talent aplenty, and if you believe CBSSports.com’s recent report that IU star Cody Zeller and UCLA star Shabazz Muhammad are the two most coveted players in college basketball by other coaches, then this potential match-up represents the best that November will likely have to offer.
  5. Next season cannot get here soon enough, but SI.com’s Andy Glockner is helping us fill the summer time off with his second annual Twitter-style State of the College Hoops Union piece where he breaks down 53 of the nation’s best teams in 140 characters or less. There’s some good stuff there, so we’d encourage you to stick with the article after reading Arizona’s blurb and his first of more than a dozen awful hoops-related puns. Out like a Lyons in March? Yeah, we meant awful as in good. Somewhere in a lair under a golf course, Jim Nantz is stealing many of Glockner’s better quips.
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UCLA: 2011-12 Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 23rd, 2012

Over the course of the next two weeks, the Pac-12 Microsite will break down each team’s season: what went well, what didn’t, and a look ahead at the future. Today’s subject: UCLA.

What Went Wrong

Team chemistry. While Reeves Nelson is the fall guy for this, after displaying abominable behavior for two-plus years on this Bruin team before eventually being dismissed in early December, the problem went deeper than that. There was supposed senior leader and point guard Jerime Anderson getting busted for stealing a laptop in the offseason and earning a light two-game suspension as a result. There was center Joshua Smith showing up for his sophomore season in worse shape than his rotund, breathless freshman edition. And given that he was close friends with Nelson, it appeared at times that his buddy’s bad attitude rubbed off on him. Aside from behavioral issues, there was also a case of mismatched parts on this team, with a talented frontcourt supported by guards that were in a bit over their heads (despite the relative success that Anderson and backcourt-mate Lazeric Jones enjoyed). And there was head coach Ben Howland who had undoubtedly one of his poorest seasons on the sideline. He was unable to respond to the attitude issues with Nelson in a timely fashion, struggled to meld newcomers like the Wear twins in quickly and in the end, was widely questioned for his inability to find playing time for guys like freshman guard Norman Powell and sophomore center Anthony Stover.

Ben Howland, UCLA

Ben Howland Is In The Midst Of A Three-Year Downswing With UCLA (Jamie Squire, Getty Images)

What Went Right

Still, after the Bruins got around to ditching their Nelson anchor, the team developed into a solid Pac-12 squad. After getting off to a terrible 2-5 start with losses to Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee mixed in with more reasonable defeats in Maui, the Bruins went 17-9 the rest of the way. Travis and David Wear, regarded as Charmin-soft early in the year, turned into the team’s top two leading rebounders and solid interior players. Smith showed some progress on the conditioning front and somehow Howland turned the combination of Jones and Anderson into a quite competent Pac-12 backcourt.

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Contrary Opinion: UCLA Story Salacious, But Nothing New Here

Posted by AMurawa on February 29th, 2012

Yesterday about this time, when news broke that George Dohrmann would be publishing a “highly negative” piece about the UCLA basketball program, there were plenty of people who immediately expected the worst. I, for one, figured that today I’d be writing about potential NCAA violations and speculating on who may be the next basketball coach for the Bruins. While the Sports Illustrated piece is certainly not something that is going to be framed and hung on the wall in Ben Howland’s office, compared to those previous expectations, Bruin fans can take a deep breath and relax. Sure, there are loads and loads of very unflattering portraits of former and current players, and mostly of Howland, but still the most damning fact against Howland is a 14-18 record in 2010 and a 16-13 record right now; this Dohrmann piece just explains how the program got to that point. And while there are plenty of salacious details and anecdotes, none of them really change what we already knew about the UCLA program before yesterday.

Ben Howland, UCLA

Ben Howland Was Painted In An Unflattering Light, But There Were No Great Revelations (Kelvin Kuo/US Presswire)

At the bottom of this piece, the finger points squarely at problems with a couple of recruiting classes — the groups of 2008 and 2009. The 2008 class featured guys like Jerime Anderson, Drew Gordon and J’Mison Morgan, while the 2009 class ominously included Reeves Nelson, but also Anthony Stover, among others. There are allegations of drug use among these players (and other players on recent UCLA teams), but the bottom line problem was Howland’s inability to sufficiently discipline these players for their numerous missteps. The poster child here is, of course, Nelson. There are stories seemingly by the barrelful about how bad of a teammate he was. After 2010 recruit Matt Carlino sustained a concussion early in his freshman year causing him to miss time, Nelson repeatedly railed on him for being soft, called him “concussion boy” and went out of his way to instigate contact with Carlino during practices, eventually helping to drive Carlino out of the program. Nelson also had repeated altercations in practice with another eventual UCLA transfer, Mike Moser. There are reports of Nelson abusing people all over the Bruin program, from student managers all the way up to assistant coaches. And all that is just scratching the surface of what is in the article, knowing full well that there are plenty of incidents that didn’t make the piece and never even reached Dohrmann’s ears. And, until this season, Howland did nothing about it.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 12.15.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 15th, 2011

  1. With UCLA’s 60-47 win over Eastern Washington on Wednesday night, the Bruins moved to within one game of .500 on its disappointing season. UCLA played mostly man-to-man defense after having used quite a bit of zone in their previous win, and was successful in limiting EWU to 30.2% eFG, but their ineffectiveness on the glass is just the newest of concerns for an underachieving team; UCLA allowed EWU to grab 41% of their offensive rebound opportunities while taking 80% of the defensive rebounds. Nevertheless, senior point guard Lazeric Jones continued his strong run, leading the team in points, rebounds, assists, steals and threes.
  2. UCLA played without sophomore forward Travis Wear, who spent the evening in the hospital with a skin infection, possibly related to a the cut he sustained on his left foot while snorkeling in Hawaii following the Maui Invitational. Wear was given antibiotics and apparently responded well to them, meaning he is likely to be released from the hospital on Thursday. With UC Irvine next up for the Bruins on Saturday, Wear is in no rush to come back, but the team is quite a bit thinner up front than had been expected, as reserves Anthony Stover and Brendan Lane each got 18 minutes on Wednesday night.
  3. Sticking with the Bruins for a bit longer, Jordan Adams, one of UCLA’s two current signees for next year, believes that the #1 recruit in the nation, Shabazz Muhammad, will be headed to Westwood next year. He also thinks Tony Parker, the #31 ranked recruit according to ESPNU, is headed to the City of Angels as well, giving the Bruins what would likely be one of the top three recruiting classes in the nation. Adams is so sure, he’s already even volunteering for sixth man duties. UCLA may be down in the dumps right now, but that foursome would provide a big boost for a team in a temporary lull.
  4. California is set to beef up its non-conference schedule in the next couple of years with a home-and-home series with Wisconsin. The Bears will travel to Madison next season before hosting the Badgers in 2013-14. Dates are not yet set, but looking ahead to next year, Cal will be without  Jorge Gutierrez and Harper Kamp, while Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor will have moved onto greener pastures, but matchups like Traevon Jackson vs. Justin Cobbs, not to mention Bo Ryan vs. Mike Montgomery, will be sure to make that matchup one to keep an eye on.
  5. Finally, two nights ago, Oregon State freshman Eric Moreland pulled down 14 rebounds in just 19 minutes against Illinois-Chicago, making it his third game in his young career with double-figure rebounds. Playing limited minutes, Moreland is grabbing 30% of the opposing team’s missed shots, and almost 16% of his own team’s missed shots, numbers that would be among the best in the nation if he played enough minutes to qualify. Moreland, who transferred from UTEP prior to last season before sitting out a year with a shoulder injury, is still getting used to his 6’10” frame (and 7’4” wingspan) after growing five inches between his junior and senior years of high school, but if this is him prior to being comfortable in his own skin, just wait until he embraces his NBA-ready body.
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A New Beginning For UCLA

Posted by AMurawa on December 12th, 2011

The theme for UCLA’s game Saturday evening against Penn was a new beginning. Not only were the Bruins playing their first game without junior forward Reeves Nelson, who was dismissed by head coach Ben Howland on Friday following a couple of suspensions for behavioral reasons, but the squad shifted to zone defense for much of the game for the first time this season. While the 77-73 victory was by no means a crisp performance, it was a sign of things to come and a chance for the struggling Bruins to experience some positivity.

Ben Howland, UCLA

Ben Howland: "A Lot Has Happened This Week And We're Getting To Where We're Figuring Stuff Out." (Credit: Blaine Ohigashi)

UCLA went to a 2-3 zone for the first time about midway through the first half while trailing by one, and spent every half-court possession for the next six minutes in that defense. Howland is primarily known as a man-to-man coach, but he confirmed that you’ll be seeing plenty of zone out of UCLA the rest of the way. “Zone is not preferred, but it is what is fitting for our team now,” he said. “It is something that you’ll be seeing when we’re changing things up. We need to use it and it will be helpful for us, especially as we get better at it.” At times the zone gave Penn trouble, as on the first possession where the Quakers were unable to find a good shot and had to settle for a fallaway three-point attempt by senior Tyler Bernardini as the shot clock expired; and true to another theme of the day, the shot dropped. Bernardini torched the Bruins throughout the day, regardless of the defense employed, hitting eight of his 12 shots on his way to a career-high 29 points. At times the defenders on the perimeter of the UCLA zone failed to close out on the three-point shot, not even putting a hand in a face, something that will surely be pointed out in practice this week. UCLA has already displayed terrible perimeter defense this year, and even after Penn shot 38.7% from three against them, they are still allowing their opponents to shoot 48.7% from three-point range on the season.

However, regardless of some of the sloppiness of the zone, it did provide a few tangible benefits to the Bruins. First, it kept the Quakers from getting good looks inside the three-point line (more than 50% of Penn’s shots were from three), an area where UCLA has struggled all year. Secondly, it helped protect a couple of Bruin big men who picked up a couple of early fouls; Joshua Smith and David Wear both had two fouls in the first eight minutes. Also, the zone gave Smith a bit of a reprieve from his own poor conditioning, allowing him to preserve some of his energy rather than having to chase his opponents out to the perimeter, leaving him enough energy in the second half to score on three straight possessions as well as kick one pass back out for what turned into a wide-open three-pointer.

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No Shocker: Reeves Nelson Dismissed By UCLA

Posted by AMurawa on December 9th, 2011

Just a month ago, Reeves Nelson was on just about everybody’s preseason All-Pac-12 team. As of today, according to a CBS Sports report, he’s no longer on the UCLA basketball team. “After much thought and deliberation, I have made the decision to dismiss Reeves Nelson from the UCLA men’s basketball team effective immediately,” said head coach Ben Howland in a statement released Friday morning after the coach met with Nelson following his final exams.

Reeves Nelson, UCLA

Reeves Nelson's Career In Westwood Was Officially Ended Friday With His Dismissal From The UCLA Basketball Program (credit: Stephen Dunn, Getty Images)

The fall from grace was swift and unexpected, but there were warning signs prior to this season. In previous years he had been known to openly yell at teammates for mistakes on the court, he famously threw a ball at Brendan Lane’s chest in disgust and just generally showed a lot of emotional immaturity. Even in high school he was repeatedly suspended for behavioral issues. This season things got worse, and fast. In the Bruins’ season-opening loss to Loyola Marymount, Nelson grew visibly frustrated as the game went on, and he failed to participate in a couple of huddles, earning his first “indefinite” suspension of the year. After sitting out the Bruins’ next game (another loss, this one to Middle Tennessee State), he was reinstated in time for the trip to the Maui Invitational, then he showed up late for the team flight. Howland somehow allowed Nelson to catch a later flight, and then benched him for a half in the tournament opener against Chaminade. Last weekend, Nelson blew a defensive assignment just before the end of the first half in a loss to Texas, got into a verbal altercation with Howland in the locker room, was benched for the second half there (during which he drew criticism for his behavior on the bench) and then subsequently suspended indefinitely again. Then today, the divorce became official.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: Thanksgiving Day Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 24th, 2011

  1. We have to start our Turkey Day post by getting right to the team that Pac-12 fans are currently thankful for, the last remaining undefeated team in the otherwise underachieving conference, Stanford. The Cardinal continued their strong start Wednesday night with a thorough 15-point handling of a solid Oklahoma State squad in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score. Senior forward Josh Owens continued his strong start with 21 points on 10-12 from the field, while below-the-radar point guard Aaron Bright had 15 points on 6-9 shooting, with three three-pointers mixed in there.  Further exciting Cardinal fans is the continued emergence of freshman guard Chasson Randle, who played his best game of his young career, scoring 17 points, including three threes of his own. However, while OSU was a step up in competition for Stanford, they should be prepared for another big jump in the talent level of their opponent, as they face RTC’s #5 team in the nation, Syracuse, on Friday afternoon in the championship of the NIT Season Tip-Off.
  2. Elsewhere in the conference Wednesday night, there were two more losses coming from among the four teams considered to make up the top tier of the Pac-12 prior to the season, as UCLA continued its disasterous season with its fourth loss on the young season and Arizona dropped its second straight. The Bruins lost by 16 to Michigan in Maui to mercifully end their trip with only a throw-away win over Division II Chaminade and some Hawaiian Airlines frequent flier miles to show for their effort. Meanwhile the Wildcats had their 22-game home winning streak broken by a game San Diego State squad. If there was a bright spot for Arizona, it was their freshman backcourt duo of Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson turning in double-digit performances. While Johnson has been solid from the get-go in Tucson, Turner has had his much publicized struggles. However, he is improving almost every time out and could have his breakout performance in the near future. On the down side for the Wildcats, however, Sean Miller spoke about the Sidiki Johnson suspension following the game and noted that Johnson did not return with the team to Tucson and remains in New York. Miller said that he and Johnson “have an agreement and if he meets this agreement, he could potentially be reinstated.” However, Miller then added, “he could also be dismissed.” Asked later is he was optimistic about Johnson meeting the agreement, he simply said, “no.”
  3. After California’s 39-point loss to Missouri on Tuesday night, Golden Bear fans had to be asking themselves: “Does this really look like a team capable of winning the conference championship?” Upon further research by Jeff Faraudo, no team from any incarnation of what is now the Pac-12 conference (i.e., the Pac-10, Pac-8, AAWU or PCC) dating back to 1950 has ever lost a non-conference game by as many as 39 points and gone on to win the conference championship. Maybe, given the possibly historic weakness of this year’s Pac-12, that streak can be broken. And maybe Tuesday night was simply a matter of a Cal team playing a poor game against a Missouri team that could do no wrong. Still, that was just another in a long line of black eyes for conference teams this season. After Wednesday night, the conference is 33-20 thus far on the season.
  4. There is not a whole lot of hope around the conference thus far, but one team that has inspired confidence among its followers, Oregon State, will get its own dash of hope this weekend. The Beavers and head coach Craig Robinson are in the Washington, D.C. area this weekend for a match-up with Towson on Saturday, and, of course, will be spending some time visiting with Robinson’s brother-in-law, some guy by the name of Barack Obama. The Beavers spent some time Wednesday with the First Family working at a food bank in the D.C. area, and will get a chance to visit the White House likely on Friday. And, while we’re on the topic of the Beavers, I would be remiss if I didn’t point you in the direction of Rob Dauster breaking down Jared Cunningham’s defensive work against Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins the other night. Great read and great analysis.
  5. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’m going to make sure I keep this post relatively positive. I’m not going to link to Bruin fans absolutely losing it over their team’s oh-for-Division-I start. I wouldn’t possibly send you in search of those same Bruin fans ripping Ben Howland’s personnel decisions (like Norman Powell, Anthony Stover and Brendan Lane are going to turn this team back into a Pac-12 front-runner). And I certainly wouldn’t encourage anybody to take a look at SB Nation’s power rankings of the eight Division I programs in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, in which UCLA is a distant sixth, behind (among others) a Pepperdine team that may finish last in the WCC, a Cal State Fullerton team that already lost to Houston Baptist this season, and a USC team that scored 36 points in losing to Cal Poly. Nah, you don’t want to read those. Go enjoy some turkey instead. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.
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Is Ben Howland’s Job in Jeopardy?

Posted by AMurawa on November 18th, 2011

The UCLA basketball program is 0-2 for the first time since Steve Lavin’s final disastrous year in Westwood. An 0-2 record isn’t necessarily the end of the world, but the Bruins haven’t exactly come by their record in the same way that Belmont did (with losses to college hoops powers Duke and Memphis). The Bruins have lost their opening two games to Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee State – and not in particularly compelling fashion either. Along the way, last year’s leading scorer and Sports Illustrated cover boy Reeves Nelson was suspended for behavioral problems, sophomore center Joshua Smith tweeted out an immature response following the LMU loss and senior point guard Jerime Anderson served the last half of his very light punishment for stealing a laptop over the summer with a suspension against LMU before coming back to underwhelm against MTSU. In short, the UCLA basketball program is a hot mess right now, a dumpster fire, a train wreck. Worse yet, it is all of those things for the second time in three years.

All of which begs the question, does head coach Ben Howland have reason to fear for his job? It’s not all that long ago that such a question would have been absurd. Remember, Howland had his Bruins in the Final Four three straight times between 2006 and 2008. Between the 2005-06 season and the 2008-09 season, he posted an astounding 123-26 (82.6%) record, with a 65-16 (80.2%) record in the Pac-10, including conference tournament games. Furthermore, Howland was absolutely killing it on the recruiting trail.

Ben Howland, UCLA

Ben Howland Has Had Some Great Successes At UCLA, But His Program Is Currently Struggling

After a two-man 2007 recruiting class ranked #10 in the nation by ESPNU, largely on the strength of Kevin Love, the #1 recruit in the nation (the class also included current UNLV senior Chace Stanback), Howland had then inked the #1 class in the nation for 2008, highlighted by point guard Jrue Holiday, with guys like Drew Gordon, J’Mison Morgan, Malcolm Lee and Anderson expected to make major impacts during their time in Westwood. The following year Howland added another five players (Tyler Honeycutt, Mike Moser, Brendan Lane, Nelson and Anthony Stover) for the #13 class in the nation. Of those 12 players in those three classes, six played either one season at UCLA or left the program prior to completing a second season. Four of them transferred out to other Division I schools with varying degress of success at their new destinations. The 2008 class goes down in history as a strong contender for the most disappointing recruiting class ever, with only Lee and Anderson making significant extended contributions to the program, and even those two players considered as serious underachievers compared to their incoming reputations.

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Pac-12 Team Previews: UCLA

Posted by AMurawa on November 3rd, 2011

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be previewing each of the Pac-12 teams as we head into the season.

UCLA Bruins

Strengths.  The Bruins’ biggest strength is in their frontcourt, a big and deep group of talented athletes led by 6’8” junior forward Reeves Nelson and 6’10” sophomore center Josh Smith. The two make a rugged duo that can cause matchup problems for most all of their opponents. North Carolina transfers David and Travis Wear (each listed at 6’10”) join 6’9” junior forward Brendan Lane and 6’10” sophomore center Anthony Stover to provide depth. David Wear will spend a lot of time playing out of position at the three, giving the Bruins an imposing frontline that will cause almost all of their opponents fits on the glass. If Wear can handle guarding smaller, quicker wings, the UCLA front line will be a serious strength.

Joshua Smith, Reeves Nelson, UCLA

Reeves Nelson And Joshua Smith Make Up A Formidable Frontcourt Duo

Weaknesses. If head coach Ben Howland’s goal is to get his best players on the court, he’ll have to play a guy like David Wear out of position. With so much depth at the four and five spots, there is no way all of those guys could get playing time if some of them didn’t slide over at times. This could open the Bruins up to being exploited by talented, athletic wings. Additionally, UCLA lacks a deadly three-point shooter. Ideally sophomore off-guard Tyler Lamb could grow into that role, but his jumper is not ready for prime time in that area either. If opposing defenses sag in to either deny the ball to the bigs or pester them once they have the ball, the Bruins lack a perimeter threat to serve as a deterrent. Oh, one last thing: the point guard play of Lazeric Jones and Jerime Anderson tends toward the erratic. Those are probably more significant weaknesses than a major conference contender should have. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 11.02.11 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on November 2nd, 2011

  1. David and Travis Wear will be eligible for their first season at UCLA after transferring from North Carolina after the 2009-10 season. This Ben Bolch article focuses on the Wear twins and the roles they will take on with the Bruins this year. David is expected to make the immediate impact early on at small forward because of his jump shooting ability. With David, Reeves Nelson, and Joshua Smith all down low, the Bruins will have the best frontcourt in the Pac-12, if not the nation. Travis and Anthony Stover will spell Smith at the center position. When the Bruins need points they will turn to Travis, while Stover is the defensive/shot-blocking specialist.
  2. If there was a theme for Pac-12 frontcourts in 2011-12, it would be “big.” There are 40 players at 6’9″ or bigger on Pac-12 rosters this season, including 7’3″ Utah center David Foster and 7’2″ Arizona State center Jordan Bachynski. Percy Allen breaks down the bigs of the conference and points out who is excelling and struggling so far this season.
  3. Exhibition basketball continued last night with two games, Humboldt State vs. Arizona and UC San Diego vs. California. We begin in Tucson, where the Wildcats bounced back from their loss against Seattle Pacific last Thursday to defeat the Lumberjacks, 60-51. Arizona still has a lot of kinks to work out, mainly on offense as they shot just 20% from behind the arc. Humboldt State didn’t do anything to help its cause, though, by putting Arizona on the line for 38 free throws. UA only made 22 of those, but that was still the difference in the game. Next up for Arizona is their regular season opener against Valparaiso on Monday night in the Coaches vs. Cancer.
  4. Up in Berkeley, the Golden Bears blew by the UC San Diego Tritons with ease. After a slow ten minutes in which Cal could not find its touch from around the rim, Mike Montgomery’s team quickly pulled away from the overmatched opponent. The lead was only nine at halftime but a 22-4 burst by the Bears to start the second half put away any thoughts of a preseason upset. Minnesota transfer Justin Cobbs was the star of the game, leading the Bears with 17 points and four assists off the bench. This was Cal’s first and only exhibition game, and they will begin regular season play against UC Irvine on Nov. 11.
  5. Arizona shooting guard Nick Johnson has drawn rave reviews so far and needs to be on the court more according to his head coach, Sean Miller. Miller has already tried moving senior shooting guard Kyle Fogg to small forward in order to create extra minutes for Johnson, and he is also considering playing Johnson at the point in order to get he and Fogg on the floor together. “We have to look at Nick playing another position if he continues to progress,” Miller said. “But it’s hard to play two positions as a freshman. For the most part, with freshmen, we keep them at one spot.” In last night”s game against Humboldt State, Fogg and Josiah Turner, Arizona’s other fabulous freshman, got the start at guard. However, they all played close to equal amounts of time (Fogg-24, Turner-22, Johnson-21). Johnson and Turner led the group with eight points each.
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RTC Conference Primers: #6 – Pac-12

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 1st, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences as well as a Pac-12 microsite staffer. You can find him on Twitter @AMurawa.

Reader’s Take I

With only two of the ten players named to last year’s All-Pac-10 team returning, the race for the conference player of the year is wide open.

 

Top Storylines

  • Twelve Is The New Ten: After 33 seasons, college basketball fans on the west coast are getting used to calling their conference the Pac-12. With Colorado and Utah along for the ride (and currently taking their lumps in football), gone are the days of the home-and-away round-robin schedule on the basketball side of things. But lest the traditionalists complain too much, it could have been much different, as schools from Oklahoma and Texas (obviously the very definition of “Pacific” states) flirted with changing their allegiance for the second consecutive year before heading back to the Big 12.
  • Fresh Blood: As mentioned above in our poll question, the conference loses eight of the ten players on last year’s all-Pac-10 team, with just Jorge Gutierrez of Cal and UCLA’s Reeves Nelson returning. In other words, it is time for a new set of players to step up and take the reins of the league. The most likely candidates are a talented group of freshman guards – names like Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson at Arizona, Tony Wroten, Jr. at Washington, Jabari Brown at Oregon, Norman Powell at UCLA and Chasson Randle at Stanford.

Jorge Gutierrez Is A Lightning Rod Of A Guard For Mike Montgomery's Golden Bears, And Big Things Are Expected.

  • The Carson Show On Hold. A seventh highly-touted freshman guard, however, is stuck in limbo. Arizona State’s Jahii Carson has yet to be cleared for practice while an investigation continues into an online course the 5’10” point guard took this summer at Adams State in Colorado. That school has yet to release his course transcript, and until that happens, Carson is unable to practice with the Sun Devils, making an already difficult situation (being regarded as a savior for a team coming off a 12-19 campaign) even worse.
  • Hard Times for Kevin Parrom: Sometimes, just when everything is going well, life conspires to deal you a set of circumstances that just suck. It’s not bad enough that Parrom took a couple of bullets on September 24 during a home invasion, while in the Bronx visiting his sick mother. But on October 16, Parrom’s mom then passed away after a long battle with cancer. While both incidents will have lasting effects on Parrom, the bullet wounds are the biggest obstacle to him getting back on the court, with bullet fragments lodged in his right leg, a boot on his right foot, nerve damage and his left hand currently wrapped up to protect lacerations sustained in the attack. Parrom is rehabilitating his injuries and as of this writing, no hard timetable is set for his return. But if anybody is due for a good break or two, Parrom’s the guy. Get well soon, Kevin.

Predicted Order of Finish

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