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.
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.