What Went Right For UCLA That Has Gone Wrong So Far

Posted by Andrew Murawa on December 4th, 2015

24-0. 41-7. 61-20. 83-44. No, this is not my high school locker combination. Rather, a handful of snapshots of scores during the Kentucky/UCLA game in Chicago about 50 weeks ago. Those scores and that domination will never go away. But on Thursday night, the Bruins began to earn back some of the capital they tossed away that Saturday afternoon nearly a year ago. Along the way, they also began to bounce back from their early-season underachieving ways, putting losses to Monmouth and Wake Forest behind them for the time being. Below, here are four, er, five things that went right for UCLA on Thursday night — things that haven’t been going right in recent days, weeks, months and years.

UCLA Fans: It's OK to Be A Fan (UCLA Athletics)

UCLA Fans: It’s OK to Be A Fan (UCLA Athletics)

  1. Fan Support. It’s a funny thing that fans can overreact to one way or the other. Great fan support and a raucous crowd in the arena and fans walk out thinking they may as well be part of the team. Empty arena as quiet as a library and fans walk out blaming the team for playing without passion and energy. Two sides of the same coin. For the better part of the past half-decade, Kentucky has been the exemplar of the first scenario. Sure, they’ve had great talent, but you’re can’t tell me that playing to a packed house at home every night hasn’t contributed to a win or two here and there that wouldn’t have otherwise happened. UCLA, on the other hand, has been exhibit A for option B. Talented players playing a fun brand of basketball in a great college arena in front of sparse crowds, leading to head scratching losses that an overly critical fan base blames on the coach, the administration and the players, rather than their collective self. Thursday night in Pauley Pavilion showed what a boost an actually supportive crowd can provide to a group of players in need of some confidence. Sure, no one is going to mistake Pauley last night for the great atmospheres in college basketball. Empty seats in the lower bowl were masked by yellow giveaway t-shirt deep into the first half. But, there was a visible and vocal crowd, something that has become the exception rather than the rule. Extra special mention is reserved for the Bruin student section. And, for that one night, the entirety of Bruin fans deserve at least some credit. The truth is, UCLA fans, UCLA students, you guys had some small part in this win tonight. Flip that coin the other way and recognize the other truth: you guys had some small part in that Monmouth loss as well. You can’t expect to be a great program on the level of Kentucky, Duke, Kansas, Michigan State, etc., when you’re not providing fan support on the level of those great programs. One little tip: it’s okay to get into your seats early prior to the game (traffic on the 405 is not a legit excuse) and return from halftime (Komodo food truck, also not a legit excuse) in time second-half action. Read the rest of this entry »
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UCLA Preview: Low Ceiling, High Floor?

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 5th, 2015

In the next three weeks leading up to season tipoff, the Pac-12 microsite will be evaluating each of the league’s 12 teams. Today’s stop: Westwood.

UCLA Bruins

Steve Alford has been in Westwood for two seasons now and he’s got consecutive Sweet Sixteens under his belt. For the first time in his tenure, he’s got a complete roster that is balanced between the frontcourt and the backcourt. And he’s got the makings of terrific recruiting classes started for the next two seasons. And yet, somehow, if you were to listen to certain segments of the notoriously tough UCLA fan base, you would think that the sky was falling. There are very high standards when you’re the head coach of a program with 11 national titles already in the rafters, but given the recent (and by recent, the last 40 years) history of the program, Alford is far ahead of the game. Still, barring a shocking development, this particular Bruins’ team is not likely to bring home banner #12. At UCLA, that all too often qualifies as a disappointment.

This Pair Of Alfords Has Have Had A Strong First Two Seasons In Westwood (AP Photo)

This Pair Of Alfords Has Have Had A Strong First Two Seasons In Westwood. (AP Photo)

Strengths. The Bruins’ biggest positives this season, especially compared with Alford’s previous two years, are two things: stability and depth. In Alford’s first year, there were the common questions associated with a new regime coupled with questions about frontcourt depth and the ability of freshmen to earn big minutes. Last season there was life without Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams and a short bench that forced players like Gyorgy Goloman, Thomas Welsh and Noah Allen into roles they weren’t ready for. This year? The Bruins have the same three returning starters — Bryce Alford, Tony Parker, Isaac Hamilton — that they planned to have all along, plus the guys who got bonus minutes last year. Throw in a pair of highly-regarded freshmen guards and combo forward Jonah Bolden making his debut after a year as a partial qualifier and you’ve got a deep UCLA team without many obvious holes in the lineup. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Twelve-Pack of Important Pac-12 Newcomers

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 2nd, 2015

At this time of year, it is easiest to get excited about the unknown. We have some idea what to expect from players like Jakob Poeltl and Josh Scott and Bryce Alford and Elgin Cook, but the new guys in their new environments? The sky’s the limit. Below we’ll count down our picks for the 12 guys in a conference of 12 teams who have us most intrigued heading into the season.

12. Bennie Boatwright, Freshman, USC – The Trojans’ offense was abysmal last season. There are plenty of things that need to happen for that to change, but Boatwright’s ability to fill it up from deep could provide an immediate boost. He averaged 27.8 PPG as a high school senior, knocking in eight threes in a single game two separate times.

Bennie Boatwright Getting Ready To Bomb From Deep - Get Used To That Sight (Photo by Kelly Kline/adidas)

Bennie Boatwright Getting Ready To Bomb From Deep – Get Used To That Sight (Kelly Kline/adidas)

11. Lorenzo Bonam, Junior, Utah – Just one of many candidates on the Utah roster to help ease the post-Delon Wright transition, Bonam averaged 16.5 points, 6.8 boards and 3.4 assists per game last season at Gillette College in Wyoming. In his Huntsman Center unveiling last month, he had 16 points in about 32 minutes of action.

10. Dejounte Murray, Washington – On a team loaded with new faces, Murray is the most highly regarded of them. He was the 2015 Washington boy’s high school basketball Player of the Year after averaging 25.0 points and 12.4 boards per game, while notching 24 double-doubles and 14 triple-doubles on the season. Read the rest of this entry »

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Separating Fact From Fiction in UCLA’s Five-Game Slide

Posted by Andrew Murawa on January 8th, 2015

I touched on the disaster that is UCLA basketball this season in Tuesday’s quick spin around the conference. And, the thing is, so did just about every writer either interested in UCLA, the Pac-12 or — given that UCLA is one of our sports’ blue-blood programs — college basketball on a national level. Having listened to everyone else’s takes, there’s plenty to agree with and plenty to disagree with. Below we’ll take a look at some of these takes and try to determine their relative truthiness, ranking each statement on a scale of 1 – completely false – to 10 – right on the money.

With UCLA On A Five-Game Slide, The Alford Family Is Firmly In The Sights of UCLA Loyalists (AP Photo)

With UCLA On A Five-Game Slide, The Alford Family Is Firmly In The Sights of UCLA Loyalists (AP Photo)

Bryce Alford is the Problem

Last week’s Bryce Alford numbers we’re off-the-charts bad: 2-of-26 from the field and 0-of-13 from three, if you need a reminder. Some see the more damning part of this the fact that he continued to shoot the ball as the misses piled up. Shots continue to go up; other players stand around and watch; Alford doesn’t do a whole lot to make his teammates better. And, frankly, as the point guard, he’s got to take the bulk of the blame when the offense he is running is sputtering so badly. Since the Kentucky game, UCLA is scoring 0.7 points per possession, and on the year, the Bruins rank 134th in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency rating.

Truthiness score: 5. Right in the middle. The younger Alford deserves some of the criticism, but, as we’ll get to in the next point, probably not the bulk of it.

Bryce Alford is UCLA’s Best Player, and That’s the Problem

This was Gary Parrish’s take in Monday’s CBS College Basketball podcast, and to paraphrase: “Alford didn’t play well this week, but you know what? He’s still the team’s best player and that’s a scary proposition for a program the quality of UCLA.” Let’s start with the first part of that point. Is Alford UCLA’s best player? Not just yes, but hell yes, of course, clearly to anyone with eyes, and probably to most people without. He is the only player on this team that can reliably go and get his own shot on a regular basis. He’s the team’s best shooter from range. He’s the best player on the team at creating shots for his teammates. Look at the KenPom numbers for starters. His 111.3 offensive rating is by far the best on the team; he’s been over 100.0 in that metric in 11 of UCLA’s 15 games (although clearly under it in the last three); he’s assisting on better than a third of all of his teammates’ hoops when he’s on the floor (good for 45th in the nation); and he’s drilling 32 percent of his shots from deep (even with that oh-fer last week) and 91 percent from the line. Make no mistake, Bryce Alford is a very good basketball player. But should he – a guy with no realistic NBA prospects – be the best player at UCLA? Probably not.

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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 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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Who’s Got Next: Jonah Bolden to UCLA and a Closer Look at Malachi Richardson

Posted by Sean Moran on December 17th, 2013


Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to discussing the recruitments of the top uncommitted players in the country. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Foul dedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

Jonah Bolden Picks UCLA

Jonah Bolden, an Australian native should see playing time right away at UCLA. (247/Kelly Kline)

Jonah Bolden, an Australian native, should see playing time right away at UCLA. (247/Kelly Kline)

Just as the recruitment of four-star forward Jonah Bolden was beginning to heat it up, it ended rather quickly after an official visit to UCLA occurred last weekend. Bolden, who recently arrived to the United States via Australia, currently plays for Findlay Prep (NV), the top prep team in the country. The 6’8” power forward first played at the Adidas Nations this past August and his performance that weekend in Southern California turned him into the No. 6 power forward in the class of 2014 and the No. 30 player overall. Playing on the Australian team, Bolden averaged 13 points and seven rebounds per game while shooting just over 65 percent from the floor. With the commitment to UCLA, Steve Alford now has four players locked up in the 2014 class and the No. 7 ranked recruiting class in the country. The new head man in Westwood caught some flak early in his brief tenure for misses on various point guards, including four-star Jordan McLaughlin who chose the rival Trojans, in addition to a de-commitment from four-star small forward Trevon Bluiett. After this season, UCLA will lose the 6’10″ Wear brothers to graduation in addition to a likely early departure of leading rebounder Kyle Anderson. Sophomore forward Tony Parker and his 20 minutes per game will return along with rarely used 6’9” freshman Wannah Bail. The gem in the Bruins recruiting class is five-star forward Kevon Looney, who is rated as the No. 14 prospect in the country and No. 2 power forward. Along with Looney, the Bruins will also get the services of 7’0″ center Thomas Welsh, who is rated No. 45 overall and the No. 6 center in the class. Closing out the UCLA loaded class will be three-star center Gyorgy Golomon, a native of Hungary who currently plays in Florida.

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Pac-12 M5: 12.11.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on December 11th, 2013


  1. Arizona tips off its first game as the number one team in the nation in more than a decade tonight when the Wildcats host New Mexico State at the McKale Center. And while the Arizona team and their fans are undoubtedly excited about the honor, their opponent tonight is likely pretty happy about the development as well because they’ll get the chance to do something they don’t often have a chance to do — knock off the number one team in the country. Likewise, on Saturday morning, the Wildcats will face a Michigan team with a chip on its shoulder looking to knock the ‘Cats down a peg or two. And, really, even if and when the Wildcats lose, they’re still going to have plenty of foes looking to knock off the Pac-12’s favorite and one of the best teams in the nation.
  2. While the Wildcats are the biggest story in the conference right now, Colorado is riding quite a high themselves in the aftermath of Askia Booker’s game winner against Kansas on Saturday. That win brought the Buffaloes’ record against the Jayhawks to an astonishing 3-53 in the last 25 years. Sure, their former conference mates are one of the sports’ blue-bloods, but that number goes a long way towards showing how little the Colorado basketball program has accomplished historically. But under head coach Tad Boyle, things are beginning to change. And George Dohrmann of Sports Illustrated has written a must-read article about how Boyle and the Buffaloes have undertaken that change.
  3. Up north, another strong contender in the Pac-12, Oregon, is about to get a lot stronger. When the Ducks face Illinois in Portland on Saturday evening, it will mark the final game of the nine-game suspensions to be served by sophomores Dominic Artis and Ben Carter. Furthermore, it marks the day after the school’s fall trimester ends, meaning freshman Jordan Bell could be academically eligible on that day as well. Bell may still redshirt this season, since he hasn’t been in the mix with the Ducks yet, but for an undefeated team currently (under-) ranked at #15, that’s a whole heck of a lot of talent that is about to be added to that team.
  4. The other big name in the conference that we haven’t gotten to yet is UCLA. And the Bruins have reinforcements arriving as well. But unlike Oregon, those reinforcements won’t be on the front line until next year. Still, what Steve Alford has done on the recruiting trail in Westwood after getting off to a slow start has been nothing short of impressive. UCLA added a top-50 recruit in Australian Jonah Bolden on Tuesday. Bolden, a skilled 6’9” combo forward, joins a UCLA 2014 class that already includes five-star power forward Kevon Looney, four-star seven-footer Thomas Welsh, and European big man project Gyorgy Goloman. On a team that is somewhat soft up front this season, the influx of talented bigs is a welcome sign. Still, sophomore point guard Kyle Anderson is expected to forgo his final two years of eligibility following this season, and with freshman Zach LaVine’s stock rapidly rising, Alford may wind up shorthanded in the backcourt next season.
  5. Finally, we head to Utah, where head coach Larry Krystkowiak has weathered the storm of rampant roster turnover in his time on campus to rebuild the Utes into a competitive and likable team. Utah fans have responded in a positive way by beginning to fill up the Huntsman Center again. With Krystkowiak garnering commitments from his own top-100 recruits, expect the upswing in Utah basketball to continue.
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Seven Sweet Scoops: Winslow to Duke, Turner Plans to Visit Stillwater, and More

Posted by Sean Moran on November 22nd, 2013


Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Fouldedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

1. Dukes Scores Again With Winslow

Justise Winslow brings a powerful game to Duke’s #1 ranked recruiting class.

The Duke recruiting run is still going strong with this week’s commitment of five-star forward Justise Winslow. One week after landing the package deal of Jahlil Okafor (#1 overall – 2014) and Tyus Jones (#4 overall – 2014), Duke picked up the No. 10 ranked player in the class of 2014 and No. 4 small forward. Over the past year rumors popped up about Winslow joining both Okafor and Jones in college as they were all familiar with each other from USA Basketball. Winslow did his due diligence on schools in taking over 20 college visits including official trips to Duke, Florida, Stanford, UCLA and Arizona. Winslow stands 6’5” and with big, broad shoulders he is one of the strongest kids in the high school ranks. A jack of all trades, he also averaged 14.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game throughout the spring and summer AAU season. With the commitment, Winslow gives Duke three players in the top 10 as well as four-star shooting guard Grayson Allen (#36 overall) in their 2014 class. With the clear cut No. 1 recruiting class the Blue Devils are more than ready to compete for national titles over the next few years.

2. Myles Turner Schedules a Trip to Stillwater

Seven-foot center Myles Turner, the top uncommitted prospect in the class of 2014, scheduled his second official visit for Oklahoma State on December 6 when the Cowboys take on South Carolina in the Big 12/SEC challenge. The No. 2 overall player in the country had a meteoric rise to the top of the rankings this spring and summer when the five-star Texan came out of nowhere and started dominating the AAU circuit. Turner has a 7’3” wing-span and is one of the best shot-blockers in the country. He can run the floor, post up, and shoot from all parts of the court as well. His first official visit was to Ohio State and he is also considering Kansas, Texas, Duke, and Kentucky. Oklahoma State is a guard-oriented team this year with Marcus Smart and Markel Brown but with their impending departures, Travis Ford would have no problem making next year’s team revolve around the talented Turner.

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Seven Sweet Scoops: Reid Travis Announcing Today, Kentucky’s Top Class & More…

Posted by Sean Moran on November 8th, 2013


Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Fouldedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

1. PF Reid Travis Set to Chose From 3 Schools

Continuing the trend of commitments, four-star power forward Reid Travis is set to make his announcement today at 3:30 PM CST. Travis is a 6’7”, 240-pound power forward from De La Salle (MN) High School who is currently ranked as the No. 7 power forward in the class of 2014 and No. 40 prospect overall. He is set to choose between his hometown Gophers, Duke and Stanford. Coming out of his junior season, Travis was ranked No. 95 in his class but impressed college coaches and scouts throughout the spring and summer in AAU games and camp tournaments. Playing for the Howard Pulley Panthers Nike AAU team alongside Tyus Jones (#4 overall – 2014), Travis averaged 19.2 points and 8.7 rebounds per game while shooting 51.7 percent from the field. In today’s day and age, Travis is the rare power forward that likes to work inside-out. Physically, he is one of the strongest players in the class of 2014 and uses his strength down low to overpower opponents for layups or short jump hooks. When not in the post, he also has a nice shooting touch out to 15 feet. When it comes time to choose a college, Travis has three strong options:

  • Minnesota – The hometown school first started recruiting Travis under former head coach Tubby Smith. When Richard Pitino took over the job, Travis became his top priority and the most likely of the Minnesota Big Three (along with Jones and shooting guard Rashad Vaughn) to stay in Minnesota.
  • Duke – Coach K started to recruit Travis after watching him during his scintillating performance at the Nike Peach Jam tournament in July. Last week the Blue Devils lost out on power forward Kevon Looney (#14 overall, #2 PF – 2014), but would love to add the Minnesota duo of Travis and Jones.
  • Stanford – Travis took an official visit to Stanford on October 18 and is attracted to the academics offered by the university. With a commitment, Travis would be the Cardinal’s third Top 100 recruit in 2014 and perhaps the most important.

2. Kentucky Back on Top

North Carolina had claimed the top spot in the 2014 recruiting rankings for quite some time with earlier commitments of five-star point guard Joel Berry (#21 overall, #3 PG), five-star small forward Justin Jackson (#9 overall, #3 SF) and four-star small forward Theo Pinson (#27 overall, #10 SF). With its most recent commitment from Trey Lyles (#8 overall, #1 PF), Kentucky made its way past UNC into the number one spot in the rankings, the spot they’ve held since 2009 when John Calipari first brought in stars John Wall, Eric Bledsoe and DeMarcus Cousins. The Wildcats now have two fivestar players in Lyles and center Karl Towns (#11 overall, #4 C) and two four-star guys in point guard Tyler Ulis (#29 overall, #6 PG) and shooting guard Devin Booker (#31 overall, #5). All four players are not considered explosive athletes and in turn are not a lock to become one-and-done like most of Calipari’s previous top recruits. What this means is that this talented class could stay in school for a bit longer than normal and could replicate the success of UNC’s top-ranked class in 2006 which eventually won a championship in 2009.

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