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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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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Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.14.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 14th, 2012

  1. UCLA made it official on Tuesday: Ben Howland will be back as the Bruins’ head coach in 2012-13. After missing the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years and suffering through the aftermath of a critical Sports Illustrated article, there was some question. But, athletic director Dan Guerrero decided that he deserved another chance. The father of elite 2012 recruit Shabazz Muhammad issued a statement of his own, expressing his support for the decision and confirming that his son is still very much considering UCLA. Bruins’ fans did find out that one of their own would be laving early, however, as Brendan Lane, a little used reserve forward, would be transferring elsewhere next season as a graduate transfer, making him eligible immediately. No possible landing spots have been discussed, but Lane is considering downshifting to a mid-major program.
  2. Across town, it’s been known for some time that USC head coach Kevin O’Neill would be back next season. And, with players back from injury along with newly eligible transfers, the Trojans should be much better. Still, O’Neill understands that better is a matter of degrees, and mere improvement over this year’s 6-26 record is not enough. The challenge is clear; much like Howland’s UCLA team, O’Neill’s squad will likely need to go to the NCAA Tournament in order to save the head man’s job.
  3. The Pac-12 held a press conference on Tuesday to officially announce the move of the conference tournament to the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas. While they become the fourth conference to hold its year-end tournament there, it is the first to actually have the event at a location on the Strip. Going forward, the event will be televised by a combination of ESPN, Fox and the Pac-12 Network, with ESPN and Fox alternating rights to the event every year. ESPN and Fox will each carry one quarterfinal game, one semifinal game and the championship game, with the Pac-12 Network carrying the remaining games.
  4. NIT play kicked off last night, and three different Pac-12 schools were in action. And, unlike real life, the fantasy world of the NIT is kind to the Pac-12, as all three schools won and advanced. Washington shook off a sluggish first half to knock off Texas-Arlington behind 23 points from Terrence Ross; they’ll face Northwestern in an interesting game that nobody will pay attention to on Friday night. Oregon hammered LSU by 20 with Devoe Joseph continuing his excellence (25 points); they’ll face Iowa on Sunday. And Stanford used a big second half to pull away from Cleveland State as they had ten different players score in an eventual 11-point win. The Cardinal will face the winner of tomorrow night’s Ole Miss/Illinois State matchup.
  5. Lastly, while Oregon fans enjoyed the win tonight, the idea that head coach Dana Altman may not be long for Eugene continues to gain steam. Altman and his wife still live in Nebraska, where he was born, raised and coached at Creighton until two years ago, and with the Huskers looking for a new head coach in the wake of Doc Sadler’s firing, he’ll certainly be among the first people called by NU athletic director Tom Osborne. Osborne and Altman developed a relationship when they were both at Creighton, and at the very least, Altman would listen to offers. George Schroeder at the Register-Guard is convinced that Nebraska is still a “dead-end job,” but with a brand-new practice facility and a brand-new arena, they have facilities at least on par with what Altman currently has in Eugene. In short, while nothing is set in stone, Duck fans would be wise to accept that there is at least a significant chance that they’ll be looking for a new head coach this offseason.
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Merry Christmas: What’s In Santa’s Bag For Pac-12 Programs?

Posted by AMurawa on December 20th, 2011

It’s that time of the year where everybody is on the lookout for that one great gift for their friends and family. In the spirit of the season of giving, I’ve been racking my brain, trying to come up with the perfect gifts for all of the Pac-12 basketball programs. My good friend Mr. Claus is willing to help me out, and between the two of us, we think we’ve found just the right thing for everybody around the conference.

Arizona – Is it too much to ask for Derrick Williams back? Because he would go a long way towards curing the Wildcats’ ills up front. But since we don’t want to take Williams’ new contract or endorsement deals away from him, we’re going to have to settle on a babysitter for freshman point guard Josiah Turner. Just somebody who can make sure the kid eats his fruits and vegetables and gets to class and practice on time and in one piece, allowing Turner to simply focus on taking care of business at Point Guard U.

Josiah Turner, Arizona

Josiah Turner Has All The Physical Tools To Be Another Great Arizona Point Guard, But He Needs Help Clearing Up His Off-The-Court Struggles (photo credit: Mamta Popat, Arizona Daily Star)

Arizona State – All Sun Devil hoops fans want for Christmas is just one letter grade higher in one class on Jahii Carson’s transcript. The freshman point guard just missed getting a high enough score on his ACT exam to earn eligibility in Tempe, but just one point higher or one letter grade higher on his high school transcript would have made the speedy point ready to play. Santa has assured me that he’s found a minor discrepancy in Carson’s junior year Spanish class that could get him on the court immediately. Sure, Carson isn’t going to turn the Sun Devils into a Tournament team overnight, but they’ll certainly be a lot easier on the eyes.

California – Hey, it’s not much, but this wake-up call service we scored for roomies Allen Crabbe and Richard Solomon should save the Bears countless hours of missed practices and subsequent benchings. And we’re even throwing in a brand new icemaker, which should help Jorge Gutierrez heal up all those bumps and bruises he gets from diving all over the court.

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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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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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Set Your Tivo: 01.07-01.09

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 7th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

The first big hoops weekend of 2011 features many important games across the land. Here are five key games followed by a host of others. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

Cleveland State @ Butler – 7 pm Friday on ESPNU (****)

With Butler’s loss at Milwaukee on Monday, folks in the Horizon League used to the Bulldogs’ dominance are excited that this may be the year someone else takes the title. Cleveland State leads the league by a game over Detroit and Wright State while holding a one and a half game lead over Butler heading into tonight’s game. Should the Vikings win on the road tonight and plow through the rest of their Horizon schedule, expect to see Cleveland State win the league. Obviously we’re a long way off from that but CSU is currently in a nice position. Butler’s problems have been on the defensive end. The Bulldogs have given up an average of 73.6 PPG in their losses while their defensive efficiency has dropped significantly from their top five ranking of a year ago.

The Bulldogs Need Mack Back On Track Tonight, And From Now On

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