Pac-12 Post-Mortems: UCLA

Posted by Andrew Murawa on April 23rd, 2014

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll go through each Pac-12 team one by one and recount the season that has just completed and begin to turn the page to what we might see next season. Today, UCLA.

What Went Right

Although it took some time to get there, this Bruins team coalesced nicely as the season wore on. Kyle Anderson turned into an All-American talent while the pieces around him were, by and large, rock solid. Team chemistry was light years better than under the previous administration, and eventually Steve Alford’s first team in Westwood won over a wary fan base. While a Sweet Sixteen appearance is not going to earn accolades from the most jaded fans, the first year of the Alford era was definitely a step forward for the program.

Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams Were Vital To UCLA's Success (Don Liebig/ASUCLA Photography)

Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams Were Vital To UCLA’s Success (Don Liebig/ASUCLA Photography)

What Went Wrong

Honestly, for this program and with this team, a loss in the Sweet Sixteen to a #1 seed isn’t exactly an underachievement. Sure, maybe a better performance by the Bruins’ frontcourt against Florida could have extended their season, and maybe Alford made some substitution errors in dealing with some minor foul trouble in that game. Certainly there were some defensive breakdowns too (how does Michael Frazier get that wide open that often?). But all told, Alford got about what he should have gotten out of this season’s UCLA club.

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Zach LaVine: One-And-Done at UCLA

Posted by Andrew Murawa on March 28th, 2014

Not only did UCLA fall to Florida on Thursday night, but Friday morning the news broke that freshman guard Zach LaVine would be joining sophomore point guard Kyle Anderson in leaving school early. Anderson was a lock to leave all along, as he had a spectacular season and is in the discussion for a lottery pick in this June’s NBA Draft. LaVine, however, was more of a borderline case. He’s clearly not ready to make an immediate impact in the NBA, but his length, athleticism and deep shooting range have intrigued scouts since November when he made a big splash early in the season. He’ll need to get stronger, develop a game off the bounce, and improve his defense, and these things will likely require time in the NBA’s Developmental League. But you can bet that LaVine’s upside will earn the attention of somebody at some point in the first round of this year’s draft, meaning a guaranteed contract and time to develop. Sure, selfishly, we would have liked to see LaVine’s high-flying game take the next step at the collegiate level, but that became a pipe dream over the course of the year.

Zach LaVine's Athleticism And Shooting Accuracy Have NBA Scouts Intrigued

Zach LaVine’s Athleticism And Shooting Accuracy Have NBA Scouts Intrigued

LaVine’s departure leaves some big questions for UCLA. First, with Anderson and LaVine both gone and with Jordan Adams potentially mulling a similar jump to the NBA, a deep and impactful Bruins backcourt could turn into a weakness next season. Norman Powell will be back for his senior season, and he’s definitely developed into a fine asset for UCLA. Bryce Alford appears to be the point guard in waiting, and he’s a fine player with plenty of upside even if he appears further and further from winning over the UCLA fan base with every game. And four-star combo guard Isaac Hamilton will be eligible next season and figures to have the ball in his hands a lot. Even if Adams doesn’t return, that group of three is solid, even if the Bruins will likely need to go sign another guard for depth. But clearly, the strength of the team will need to shift to the frontcourt, where Tony Parker will return for his junior season and be joined by four incoming freshmen, highlighted by five-star power forward Kevon Looney and a pair of four-star bigs (Thomas Welsh and Jonah Bolden).

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Assessing the Steve Alford Era at UCLA Almost One Year In

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on March 26th, 2014

It was a year ago this week that the change was made at UCLA. Ben Howland was dismissed after an opening round NCAA loss to Minnesota, and the following week, on Saturday morning of the Elite Eight to be precise, UCLA announced that it would hire New Mexico head coach Steve Alford – who had just recently agreed to a lengthy contract extension with that school after its own untimely exit from the NCAA Tournament – as the 13th head coach in the storied program’s history.

Steve Alford, UCLA

The Steve Alford Era Had A Bumpy Start, But Has Settled Into A Nice Groove (Damian Dovarganes/AP)

Suffice it to say that the beginning of the Alford era in Westwood did not begin smoothly. The hire was greeted with anywhere from an outright disdain for the choice to a more wait-and-see approach, but few if any saw the hire as a home run. (Here, we called it a solid line-drive single, and our response was probably one of the more favorable ones you may have read). From those initial reactions, the temperature dipped dramatically over the next week after an unreceptive opening press conference delved into his handling of a sexual assault case at Iowa 11 years earlier and went downhill from there. A week later Alford finally apologized for his handling of that case and an uneasy truce with the local media began.

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Pac-12 M5: 02.28.14 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 28th, 2014

pac12_morning5

  1. Did you see Arizona on Wednesday night? Did you see them run through California at McKale in a barrage of suffocating defense and ridiculous transition throwdowns? Did you think what I thought? As Greg Hansen of the Arizona Daily Star points out, Wednesday night was the Wildcats’ demonstration that they have healed and moved on since losing Brandon Ashley. He won’t, and I won’t, and I doubt anyone will claim that the Wildcats are better without Ashley, but they have definitely worked their way back to the point where they’re roughly as good, and as dominant, as they were before their sophomore power forward went down. There are still certainly some weaknesses there, but I’ll gladly put Arizona right up there with the best in the nation as equally deserving of national championship contender status.
  2. Thursday night, UCLA hosted Oregon and did so without their two best players, as sophomores Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams watched after being suspended in the middle of the day on Thursday for a “violation of team rules.” And, midway through the second half with the Bruins down 14, it looked like Oregon would walk away with an easy win that would help bolster their tournament resume. Well, those Ducks got that all-important win, but it took them an extra 10 minutes to do so, as a wild, literally-last second David Wear three forced overtime, much-maligned freshman point guard Bryce Alford went nuts for 31 points in 49 minutes and still the Bruins weren’t able to overcome the effort of Oregon transfer guards Joseph Young and Jason Calliste. For UCLA, it is no harm, no foul when it comes to their NCAA prospects while Oregon comes away a game south of .500 in the conference with three to play and another solid win for their resume. Anderson and Adams are expected to be back Sunday for UCLA’s home finale against Oregon State and in the end, no harm done, but hopefully a lesson learned.
  3. Tonight, Washington and Washington State will reignite their rivalry in an in-state battle that few outside of the Evergreen State will pay much attention to, even on a night largely barren of meaningful college basketball games. As Christian Caple of The News Tribune calls it, “apathy” has set in, as neither the Huskies nor the Cougars have been much worth watching in recent years. Their match-up earlier this year drew the least number of fans in more than a decade and excitement for Friday night’s match-up isn’t a whole lot stronger than it was.
  4. We mentioned this way back in October and were taken to task for it by a Washington fan, but… at what point does Lorenzo Romar’s seat on the sideline at Hec Edmunson Pavilion get a little tingly? Athletic director Scott Woodward still calls Romar the “right man for the job” and his contract that runs through 2020 (at $1.7 million per year) , which should guarantee that he won’t be run off too hastily. But the Huskies are now heading into their third-straight March on the outside looking in come the NCAA Tournament. And, with C.J. Wilcox graduating and the recruiting pipeline starting to dry up, there is no end in sight to the drought. Make no mistake, Romar’s still got plenty of leash in Seattle, but questions about his long-term viability absolutely need to be considered these days.
  5. Below is our panel’s selections for this weekend in Pac-12 basketball. We head to the mountains for our game of the week, where all three of us took the host Utes in a rare Saturday morning game. In fact, there is no differential between our panel’s selections this week. Very boring.
    Game Connor (27-7) Drew (23-11) Adam (22-12)
    Washington State @ Washington Washington Washington Washington
    Colorado @ Utah Utah Utah Utah
    California @ Arizona State Arizona State Arizona State Arizona State
    Stanford @ Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona
    Oregon State @ UCLA UCLA UCLA UCLA
    Oregon @ USC Oregon Oregon Oregon
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Three Thoughts on UCLA’s Win Over Colorado

Posted by Andrew Murawa on February 14th, 2014

Here are three thoughts from UCLA’s convincing win last night over Colorado at Pauley Pavilion.

  1. Kyle Anderson’s 22 points, 11 assists and seven boards; Bryce Alford’s second-half explosion behind a perfect four-of-four from deep; Jordan Adams and Norman Powell out-physicalling Colorado defenders around the paint on the way to a combined 27 points, ten boards, eight assists and five steals: these were the flashy performances, the things that probably caught the most eyeballs. Did anyone ever realize any UCLA frontcourt players showed up to this game? Did anyone notice the Wear twins and Tony Parker combine for 26 points and 14 boards (not to mention four blocks)? Did anyone realize that between the three of them, they made 12 of their 14 field goal attempts and knocked in a couple of threes on the way to a 92.9 eFG%? Well, they did. And with guys like Anderson and Adams and Powell being highly consistent offensive performers around the perimeter and with Alford and fellow freshman Zach LaVine capable of offensive explosions on a regular basis, if the Bruins can get that type of performance from their frontcourt in any way, they are going to be awful hard to beat. How hard? Let’s put it this way: UCLA has not lost a game this season when the trio of the Wears and Parker have combined for at least either 21 points or 13 rebounds. That’s not a high bar to meet. You figure the UCLA wings and guards are going to get theirs; if Steve Alford can continue to just cobble together a solid combined performance out of his trio of bigs, this team is a serious sleeper come March.

    Kyle Anderson's Impact Is Flashier, But The UCLA Frontcourt May Be As Important For thei Team's Long-Term Hopes

    Kyle Anderson’s Impact Is Flashier, But The UCLA Frontcourt May Be As Important For thei Team’s Long-Term Hopes

  2. Kyle Anderson has gotten, and deserved, a lot of press this season for his versatile game. You know about his great passing ability (he hands out assists on better than 35% of his teammates buckets when he’s on the court). You know he’s a floor general for a flashy offensive team. You may not realize he’s shooting 52.4% from three on the year, but you probably have recognized that his perimeter jumper is vastly improved. You know he uses his 6’9” frame and long arms to rebound at high rates on both ends of the court; in fact he’s particularly good on the defensive end (his 24.5 DR% is in the top 50 in the nation). But that last point, his defensive rebounding, really only barely begins to scratch the surface of what he’s doing on the defensive end. The scouting report on Anderson has long been that he’s an amazing offensive talent, but that he can’t guard. And sure, if you try to make him check Jahii Carson or Chasson Randle, he’s going to struggle with their quickness over the course of a game. But given that he is regularly checking the opponent’s forwards, he’s actually turned into a really good defender. Thursday night, he was on Colorado’s Xavier Johnson for the bulk of his 36 minutes of action. In the first half, Johnson was largely absent on his way to four points. Then in the second half, Johnson’s back-to-back buckets on either side of the under-eight media timeout came when Anderson was getting a blow. Anderson used his length and growing stretch to deny Johnson the ball repeatedly. And then when he did get the ball, he used that length to bother Johnson into either bad shots or giving the ball back up. While Anderson is certainly not the type of defender than can guard the smaller and quicker point guards, that needn’t be held as a strike against him, as he is solid enough when he gets switched onto those guys on occasion and if above-average when defending a three or a less physical four. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 M5: 01.29.14 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on January 29th, 2014

pac12_morning5

  1. Pac-12 play gets back underway tonight with the Arizona schools visiting the Bay Area. And that means Arizona freshman forward and prized recruit Aaron Gordon is making his return to his old high school stomping grounds, where he played at Archbishop Mitty. As he was in high school, Gordon remains a coach’s dream in college, a hard-working, versatile player that is a great teammate who is always improving. Cal head coach Mike Montgomery, who was among the coaches hot in pursuit of Gordon’s commitment, joined Arizona head coach Sean Miller in praising Gordon’s ability. But, more importantly for the Wildcat’s season than one player’s return home is the chance to again prove their mettle in tough conference road games.
  2. As for California, tonight they host Arizona State in an attempt to get back on track. But the Sun Devils provide significant and diverse challenges for the Golden Bears. First, along the frontline, Richard Solomon will need to continue his strong play as he matches up mostly against the Sun Devils’ senior center Jordan Bachynski who has four inches on him. And then in the backcourt, senior point guard Justin Cobbs may have the experience edge on Arizona State’s sparkplug Jahii Carson, but Carson’s got the clear quickness advantage. And, as always when the nation’s #1 team is up next, the Golden Bears need to make sure they’re not looking ahead to Saturday against Arizona.
  3. Good news everyone! Washington State junior guard DaVonte Lacy may return as early as this weekend when they host Washington on Saturday. Lacy has had a rough 2014 so far, missing time following surgery to remove his appendix, returning for 11 minutes and then injring his ribs. And, without their best scorer and leader, the Cougars have been, well, just awful. While it remains to be seen if he’ll actually play on Saturday or possibly wait until next week, it will likely take some time for him to get back to full strength. And until he is back at full strength, the Cougs really don’t have much of a chance to compete on a regular basis. But, assuming he’s back to full strength by March, and assuming Que Johnson’s time in the spotlight has been put to good use, there’s a chance these guys are talented enough to spring an upset on day one of the Pac-12 Tournament. Maybe not a good chance, but a chance.
  4. Tomorrow night, Oregon gets a chance to build upon its win over Washington State last weekend by protecting its homecourt against the invaders from UCLA. While the Ducks shut down the Cougars defensively on Sunday, holding them to 44 points (0.73 points per possession), the Bruins offer a whole different challenge, with talented offensive players up and down their rotation. After the up-tempo Ducks allowed 80 points or more in five consecutive games prior to the Washington State matchup, they welcome in the Bruins, who have scored at least 69 points in every game this year and 80 or more in 12 out of their 20. With both teams in the top 20 in the nation in shortest offensive possession length and with KenPom.com projecting a final score in the upper-80s, this may well be one of the most enticing conference games of the season.
  5. Lastly, yuck. I didn’t want to do this. I didn’t want to do this at all. It has been an emerging policy at least among RTC Pac-12 writers to ignore Bruins Nation, a UCLA “fan” site that has repeatedly shown an ignorance about basic basketball strategy and is a shining beacon in the world of applying actual events to pre-determined narratives, no matter how silly those applications turn out to be. Given that there are so many better sources for news and opinion about UCLA basketball, there is no reason to usher people in the direction of the TMZ of UCLA basketball coverage. But, in the spirit of comedy, they outdid themselves on Tuesday, suggesting that one of the reasons that freshman guard Zach LaVine (regularly projected as a lottery or border-line lottery selection in the 2014 NBA Draft) may be considering entering the draft following this season is because head coach Steve Alford is playing favorites and will hand the point guard position next year (assuming, safely, that Kyle Anderson is NBA-bound) to his son Bryce Alford, regardless of the competition. Now, we’re not actually going to link to this Onion-esque bit of prose (which, among other things, suggests that LaVine, third on the team in minutes this year, might still be relegated to the bench next season if Anderson leaves), but suffice it to say that this is odd, at best. Right now, without any bit of doubt whatsoever, Alford is the team’s second-best point guard. LaVine is terrific off the ball (seriously, coming off a solid screen and squaring up to get a good look at the hoop from deep, there are very few more fearsome shooters in the nation), but has shown an inability to create for himself or others with anything more than one or two dribbles, and is loose with his handle. He’s a terrific pro prospect because of his athleticism, ridiculous upside and potential to improve those glaring weaknesses. And if he winds up forgoing his final three years of eligibility, it is entirely because he is likely to get paid handsomely for such an opportunity. Either way, while he may well develop into a point guard in time, right now, he would struggle running the point – he’s an attacking wing in transition and a deadly catch-and-shoot guy. But the idea that the criminally-underrated Alford is only receiving playing time because his dad has a soft spot in his heart for him indicates a writer who has decided not to spend any time actually watching UCLA basketball.
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Thoughts on Arizona’s Big Road Win at UCLA

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 10th, 2014

This is the early conference game that both Arizona and UCLA fans had likely been looking forward to for a couple weeks. It’s the biggest historic rivalry in the conference and it was Arizona’s first road test in Pac-12 play . But really, as people were imagining what this game would look like, this is probably not what they foresaw. UCLA holding its own on the glass, despite almost no help from its pair of senior frontcourt starters? Arizona the team with the deadly outside shooting? Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams struggling, yet the Bruins keeping this close for 40 minutes? Let’s look at each of those things below.

Gabe York's Perimeter Shooting Was a Big Key For Arizona On Thursday Night (Mamta Popat, Arizona Daily Star)

Gabe York’s Perimeter Shooting Was a Big Key For Arizona On Thursday Night (Mamta Popat, Arizona Daily Star)

  • The Wildcats came into the game eighth in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage and 13th in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage, while UCLA is a middling rebounding team with a ton of question marks up front. Therefore the expectation was that Arizona would dominate the glass. While the Cats did make some hay on the offensive boards and wound up dominating the interior on the offensive end (Arizona outscored UCLA 42-22 in the paint), UCLA stayed in the game in large part because it was able to create second chance opportunities of its own. This was a surprise even to Arizona head coach Sean Miller, who pointed to that as one of the keys of the game by saying “They really hurt us on the offensive glass. That was a surprise to us, because we’ve done very well there, and isn’t necessarily a strength of theirs but last night it was. If we had done a better job defensive rebounding, the game wouldn’t have come down to the final plays. One of the reasons that they were in it was because of the number of second shots they got.” Even more surprising, the Bruins did their damage on the glass without much of a contribution from the Wear twins, who combined to grab just four total boards. Read the rest of this entry »
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Previewing Saturday’s UCLA/Missouri Contest

Posted by Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) and Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on December 6th, 2013

In advance of UCLA’s visit to Missouri on Saturday morning, Pac-12 correspondent Andrew Murawa and his SEC counterpart Greg Mitchell had a few questions for each other about the teams they’ve been watching so far this year. Read on to find out all you’ll need to know about the intriguing intersectional matchup, with tips on  Saturday at 11:30 AM CST on CBS.

Andrew Murawa: Last year, UCLA fans were wowed by Phil Pressey’s playmaking ability in the Tigers’ loss at Pauley Pavilion. With Pressey now gone, who’s running the show for Mizzou and how does he stack up compared to Pressey?

Greg Mitchell: Pressey was a Keion Bell missed layup away from 20 assists in that game, and it would end up being his best statistical night of 2012-13. Tulsa transfer Jordan Clarkson is the Tigers’ new starting point guard, and he ended up at Mizzou because of a childhood friendship with Pressey. He brings a very different skill set to the table. Where Pressey broke defenses down with his speed, Clarkson can back down smaller guards because of his 6’5” frame. He doesn’t have the vision Pressey did (few in the sport do) but he is a much better finisher and scorer. He’s off to an excellent start, and looks for his shot far more than Pressey did: In fact, he is currently leading the SEC in field goal attempts.

Jordan Clarkson Is A Different Player Than Phil Pressey, But Maybe A More Efficient Player (Jordan Henriksen, AP Photo)

Jordan Clarkson Is A Different Player Than Phil Pressey, But Maybe A More Efficient Player (Jordan Henriksen, AP Photo)

AM: UCLA’s been on fire offensively and is currently ranked among the top 10 most efficient offensive teams in the nation. What can Missouri do to slow down the athletic UCLA offense?

GM: Defense hasn’t necessarily been Mizzou’s strong suit this season. The Tigers’ starting backcourt, however, is big and athletic. Clarkson, Jabari Brown, and Earnest Ross are all 6’5” and can bother opponents. West Virginia, which was on fire from three this season, was noticeably flustered by this length on Thursday night. The Tigers can also more or less switch effectively at all positions when forwards Jonathan Williams III and Tony Criswell are paired with those three.

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Pac-12 Team Preview: UCLA Bruins

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) on November 5th, 2013

We continue unveiling our team-by-team breakdowns, in roughly the reverse order of where we expect these teams to finish in the conference standings.

UCLA Bruins

Strengths. There is a lot of pure talent on this UCLA roster. Seven players on this roster were considered four-star recruits or better coming out of high school. Two of them – Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams – are expected to have NBA futures, possibly as soon as the next season. And the departures of Shabazz Muhammad and Ben Howland are expected to significantly improve team chemistry around the program. This Bruin roster may be slightly less talented than last season, but expect the gestalt to be an improvement, and expect the increase in tempo that UCLA fans saw in Howland’s final season to continue and even accelerate. The Bruins will be at their best in transition under new head coach Steve Alford, and they’ve got plenty of guards and wings who can get up and down the floor and score.

With Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams Returning, UCLA Could Again Contend For Conference Supremacy (Don Liebig/ASUCLA Photography)

With Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams Returning, UCLA Could Again Contend For Conference Supremacy (Don Liebig/ASUCLA Photography)

Weaknesses. Until Anderson proves himself, there are going to be questions about how he’ll fill in for departed senior Larry Drew II at point guard. Anderson is known as a playmaker with the ball in his hands, but it remains to be seen just how effective he can be against this level of competition creating for others. Even more questionable is his ability to guard opposing backcourt players; while the plan will often be for Anderson to switch to guarding threes and maybe even fours on defense, there could be plenty of opportunities for those switches to get crossed up in transition. Also, in the frontcourt, the Bruins have a lack of depth. With senior Travis Wear sidelined for up to a month following appendix surgery and with freshman Wanaah Bail recovering from offseason knee surgery, UCLA is presently limited to just two scholarship players who are bigs: solid senior David Wear and the unproven sophomore Tony Parker.

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A Bumpy Start for Steve Alford at UCLA, But Plenty of Reason for Hope

Posted by AMurawa on October 9th, 2013

Coaching changes are rarely easy. Aside from the typical human stresses of finding a new home and getting to know your new surroundings, for a head coach at a major college basketball program, there are a bunch of young adults in both high school and college for whom you have to account. More than one new head coach’s job has been made much more difficult by the immediate transfers of key players or decommitments from recruits. And when you’re someone like Steve Alford, walking into a high profile job like UCLA as something other than the program’s first choice, the initial impression can be very important.

Steve Alford, UCLA

Steve Alford’s First Offseason As UCLA Head Coach Has Not Gone Smoothly (Damian Dovarganes/AP)

And, to put it plainly, the first few months of the Alford era in Westwood have been a mixed bag, at best. From the moment the news of the hire came down on the Saturday of last year’s Elite Eight, the wisdom of the decision was questioned. This was a guy just over a week past getting run out of the NCAA Tournament by heavy underdog Harvard, a loss that continued to leave him without a single Sweet Sixteen appearance since 1999. Not long after the hire was announced, many were reliving the questionable decisions Alford made in defending his former player Pierre Pierce against sexual assault charges while both were at Iowa. Alford eventually issued an apology, but it came almost two weeks after he was hired at UCLA and more than 11 years after the initial incident.

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UCLA Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 15th, 2013

Now that we are officially in the offseason, it’s time to take a look back and evaluate each team’s 2012-13 performance. Next on our list: UCLA.

What Went Right

All things considered, a lot of things went right for the Bruins this year. Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson were cleared of their eligibility concerns early and both played (mostly) a full season. Ben Howland made the decision to play to his team’s strengths and emphasized an up-tempo offense-first style. Larry Drew II made the most of his lone season in Westwood and ended his college career on a very positive note. And freshman Jordan Adams was far far better than anyone outside of his immediate family had a reasonable right to expect. Still, the season ended with Howland getting fired after a Round of 64 loss in the NCAA Tournament, so that tells you that not everything went well.

UCLA Freshman Shabazz Muhammad Scored 11 Points and Grabbed Six Rebounds As The Bruins Advanced To The Pac-12 Championship (credit: USA Today)

UCLA Freshman Shabazz Muhammad Had An Eventful Season In Westwood (credit: USA Today)

What Went Wrong

Well, where to begin? Let’s start with the continued trend of halfway-talented players departing from Howland’s program, leaving the team with just eight scholarship players on the roster at the end of the season. Then, for all the good things Muhammad showed in his ability to do offensively, he didn’t show much of a desire to do anything else (32 games, 27 assists, four blocked shots, 8.5% defensive rebounding percentage,  abhorrent body language and sportsmanship). For the rest of the team, things just never congealed on the defensive end, resulting in the third-worst defensive performance out of a UCLA team in Howland’s career in Westwood. Throw in a little bad luck in the form of Adams’ freak foot injury on the final play of a big win in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals and despite high hopes at the start of the year, it turned into a disappointing result.

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Morning Five: Thanksgiving Day Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 24th, 2011

  1. After suffering a rash of injuries early in the season, Louisville finally got some good medical news when it cleared Rakeem Buckles to return to practice today. Buckles is coming back from surgery on his right knee after tearing his ACL at the end of February. We are not sure what kind of shape Buckles is in now, but we hope that he is in better health (and has better luck) after an injury-riddled sophomore season in which he had to sit out three different times due to various injuries (ACL tear, concussion, and a broken finger). If Buckles comes back in shape, he could provide the Cardinals with some much needed toughness in the paint.
  2. The investigation into allegations against Bernie Fine appears to be getting messier. While there are additional details coming out about how the case came back into spotlight, the real action is happening between the Syracuse DA’s office and police department. After initially serving the police department with a subpoena and being met by claims of wanting to present the case in whole rather than pieces, the DA is now claiming that the police department illegally leaked the reports from the alleged victims in an attempt to embarrass the DA’s office for the way it originally handled the case. The way things are going it appears like this case may not have the tawdriness and explicit details of a school orchestrated cover-up that some are speculating may have happened at Penn State, but we may have a much messier legal situation because two of the primary prosecuting entities are bickering, which may compromise whatever case there is here.
  3. Sunday was a rough day for Washington. Not only did they get blown out at Saint Louis, but sophomore C.J. Wilcox also suffered a concussion after running into a screen. He has been limited in practice this week, but is expected to play tomorrow. Prior to Sunday’s game, which he had to leave early and did not come back, Wilson had been leading the team in scoring with nearly 19 points per game. According to the report it appears to be a relatively mild concussion so they expect he will be able to return at full strength. In any event, the Huskies probably will not need Wilcox’s services that much until two weeks from now when they play Marquette and Duke.
  4. Steve Alford may have a somewhat unique recruiting situation on his hands as his son Bryce is putting up some big numbers as a junior in Albuquerque. In a win on Tuesday night, Bryce scored 44 points to break a school single-game scoring record held by former Arizona star A.J. Bramlet. While Bryce is not considered one of the truly elite recruits in his class at this time, he is highly regarded and probably would fit in well at his father’s school assuming he wants to stay in the area and be coached by his father. Steve will not only have the advantage of being in his son’s ear everyday (assuming the NCAA doesn’t have a rule against fathers talking to their sons); he will also have other advantages that nobody else can match. As USC’s legendary coach John McKay said of recruiting his own son, “I had a rather distinct advantage. I slept with his mother.”
  5. As we mentioned in a column yesterday, Kentucky’s team is fascinating on a number of levels. We choose to focus on the variability of each player’s individual performance and how they are relying on individual excellence rather than a team-based approach. Andy Glockner has an excellent piece on how John Calipari is dealing with coaching such a young team, an experience that is not that new for him. As Glockner notes, this type of young talented team is increasingly common at Kentucky and its legacy will be determined by how well it reacts to Calipari’s coaching.
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