Pac-12 Season Preview: UCLA Bruins

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 3rd, 2014

Throughout the preseason, the Pac-12 microsite will preview each of the league’s 10 teams, from worst to first. Today: UCLA.

UCLA Bruins

Strengths. There’s plenty of talent here, no doubt. Norman Powell, Bryce Alford and Tony Parker return as players who earned at least 40 percent of the team’s minutes last year and were all highly efficient offensive players on a high-powered offensive squad. They’ll be joined by freshmen Kevon Looney and Isaac Hamilton, both of whom are highly-regarded recruits expected to slip seamlessly into the starting lineup. Throw in guys like Wannah Bail and Noah Allen, who played bit parts efficiently last year, and another highly regarded freshman in Thomas Welsh (who may be more of a project than his classmates) and there is plenty of reason for excitement in Westwood. The Bruins once again should be a high-flying, entertaining ballclub.

Norman Powell's Athleticism On The Wing Will Be A Big Part Of UCLA's Offense (Harry How/Getty Images)

Norman Powell’s Athleticism On The Wing Will Be A Big Part Of UCLA’s Offense. (Harry How/Getty Images)

Weaknesses. Two immediately jump off the page: a lack of depth and defensive uncertainty. First, the depth thing is pretty clear. Freshman Jonah Bolden and senior transfer Jonathan Octeus were both supposed to play significant roles off the bench for the Bruins, but they ran into academic problems that will keep them out of UCLA uniforms this year (Octeus wound up at Purdue as a transfer after being denied admission). That leaves Bail, Allen and Welsh as the top three players off the bench. The Bruins could survive one well-placed and well-timed injury, but any significant health problems beyond that could lead to raw freshmen or even walk-ons playing big roles. Throw in the fact that Looney has battled injuries in early workouts already and this coiuld get scary. The second issue is on the defensive end. Powell is a fantastic defender, but just about everybody else on the roster has question marks. Alford is a terrific offensive player but he can get outquicked or overpowered by better athletes. Parker has a history of foul trouble. Hamilton and Looney are talents more known for their offensive abilities who still need to prove their defensive merits. On down the line, questions loom.

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Pac-12 M5: 11.15.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 15th, 2013

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  1. With the start of the early signing period well underway, we’re going to spend almost all of this morning’s rundown on recruiting. And to kick things off, not only did Arizona have a big night on Thursday by getting a hard-earned victory over a tough San Diego State team, but they heard whispers of some very good things for the future as well. Stanley Johnson, a top-10 recruit out of Mater Dei in the greater Los Angeles area, will announce his decision on where he will attend school next season and the rumors are that Johnson will select Arizona over competitors like USC and Kentucky. With four-star guys Craig Victor and Parker Johnson-Cartwright already committed, Sean Miller’s got the beginnings of another phenomenal class.
  2. On the other side of the things, Oregon State is struggling through a rough start to the season, but Beaver fans not only can celebrate the signing of a new recruit, but this specific recruit – junior college transfer Gary Payton II – offers up ties to the most recent glory days of the basketball program in Corvallis. While “The Mitten” doesn’t have the accolades that “The Glove” brought to OSU, he is a strong defender like his father and will provide some excitement for the Beavers next season. Meanwhile, there are three other recruits who have already verbally committed to Oregon State who may sign in the coming days. The big question that remains is whether head coach Craig Robinson will still be around to enjoy the fruits of his recruiting labor.
  3. Up in the Bay Area, both Cal and Stanford have signed highly regarded recruits. Mike Montgomery signed four-star point guard Ahmaad Rorie, who had committed to the Golden Bears almost two years ago, while Stanford inked five-star power forward Reid Travis, who just committed to the Cardinal last week. Johnny Dawkins still has a couple four-star recruits in point guard Robert Cartwright and center Michael Humphrey who have already verbally committed, but they still need to make it official. And then, of course, we’ll need to see if Dawkins is still around to welcome them into Palo Alto next season.
  4. Let’s switch from NorCal to SoCal to check out what USC and UCLA got done yesterday. Trojan head coach Andy Enfield signed three players, including big guys Malik Price-Martin and Jabari Craig along with four-star point guard Jordan McLaughlin, all of whom will be significant upgrades in terms of players who fit in with the style of play that Enfield wants. Expect these three to get big roles early for the cardinal and gold. Meanwhile, across town, Steve Alford signed Kevon Looney – a five-star power forward –and Hungarian power forward Gyorgy Goloman, who is spending 2013-14 at a prep school in Florida. Looney, in particular, is a big-time get for UCLA.
  5. Lastly, we’ve got football again tonight. And, while we’ve got sufficient focus on basketball this time of year, we’ll be sure to take a couple breaks this weekend to keep our eye on some exciting Pac-12 football. Connor and I continue our battle for prognosticating supremacy, and we’re in a tight contest. Last week we both went 4-1, with Connor eking out a fun one when Arizona State knocked off Utah, and me riding Myles Freaking Jack !!!!! (yes, I believe those exclamation points are now officially a part of his name) to a UCLA win over Arizona (although I was wishing I was watching a UCLA/Arizona basketball game the whole time). On the season, Connor’s still got a one-game lead on me, with him checking in at 58-15 and me at 57-16. Our game of the week comes tonight, when Washington and UCLA meet up at the Rose Bowl (a 6:00 PM football game at the Rose Bowl on a Friday night? Yeah, calling that thing half full at kick-off will be extraordinarily optimistic). I’m leaving the Bruins bandwagon to hop on Bishop Sankey and company, while Connor’s going with the Bruins at home.pickem_midnov
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Pac-12 M5: 10.30.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on October 30th, 2013

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  1. While the main focus right now for basketball fans around the country may be the return of the NBA regular season, we continue to check off the final days before college basketball returns for real. But, in the meantime, if you’re dying for any kind of action, we do have some exhibition games to pass the time. Tonight, for instance, the Steve Alford era at UCLA gets underway as the Bruins will host Cal State San Bernardino at Pauley Pavilion, giving fans a first glimpse at what the Alford offense is going to look like and whether Kyle Anderson can live up to his hype as the floor general for this squad. As for the new head coach, he’s most looking forward to that first trip down the tunnel from the locker room to the floor.
  2. Meanwhile, Alford has notched his first commitment for the class of 2014, a 6’9″ native of Hungary named Gyorgy Goloman. Given that the Bruins are expected to lose four of their five players who are taller than 6’7″ (those four would be the senior Wear twins, walk-on Sooren Derboghosian, and Anderson, who is expected to leave for the NBA Draft following his sophomore campaign), scoring a big man – even a three-star big man like Goloman – is a major priority. Still, Alford will need to up the talent level in order to get things rolling again in Westwood.
  3. Meanwhile, Oregon State’s first of two exhibition games came last night as the Beavers hosted Corban at Gill Coliseum. Playing without the suspended Devon Collier and Eric Moreland, Oregon State led by as many as 31 before Craig Robinson emptied the bench. Roberto Nelson led the Beavers in scoring (get used to that phrase), but the highlight may have been senior center Angus Brandt’s return from last year’s ACL injury. Brandt only played 13 minutes, but scored eight points and, most importantly, looked healthy. But really, just about the only thing these exhibition games are good for are to remind us that were getting real darn close to games that count.
  4. Stanford and head coach Johnny Dawkins face a daunting challenge this season. Unless the Cardinal make their first NCAA Tournament since 2008 (behind this improbable Brook Lopez last-second jump-hook), Dawkins will be looking for new employment and the Cardinal’s talented senior class will have gone oh-fer-their careers at Stanford. Dawkins points to Stanford’s close misses (six losses by five or fewer points) as reason for hope that a turnaround would not be that drastic. But Stanford will need to significantly improve its shooting (it was last in the conference in field goal percentage at just 41.6 percent last year) in order for that improvement to happen.
  5. Lastly, news came down earlier this week that former USC head coach Kevin O’Neill has landed a job as a college basketball analyst with Fox Sports 1 for the upcoming season. While O’Neill has a gruff persona and is not exactly a beloved former coach a la Seth Greenberg or Bruce Pearl, the guy has something of a dry sense of humor. And, of course, he knows the game. Unfortunately, with Fox Sports 1 only locked into broadcasting Big East games, Pac-12 fans won’t get to hear O’Neill’s opinions of the cast of characters he coached for and against in recent years. Still, we see a strong future for O’Neill as the next Billy Packer – you can decide for yourself whether or not that is a good thing.
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