Pac-12 M5: 11.30.12 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on November 30th, 2012

  1. We mentioned yesterday how a pair of recent departures from UCLA will hurt the Bruins this season, but we didn’t even begin to look at how it can hurt recruiting in the years to come. This LA Times article discusses exactly that, along with getting a feel for the overall temperature of the program. Ben Howland has lost 11 players in the past four years, a staggering number even in the state of mass transfer that college hoops is in today. The departures haven’t appeared to hurt Howland in recruiting (obviously, as he brought in one of the top classes in the nation this year), but as the number of shocking losses grow, one has to wonder just how long until the Bruins see a sharp drop-off. Sophomore guard Norman Powell was quoted in the article as saying you shouldn’t let it affect your decision; “The people transferring, they probably have personal decisions. You can’t make your recruitment decision on, ‘Oh, people are leaving the program.’ The Bruins did a good job of putting the distractions behind them to dominate Cal State Northridge on Wednesday night, and they’ll need to do the same thing Saturday when they meet a very good San Diego State team in Anaheim.
  2. After starting his career in Westwood by making the Big Dance in five of his first six seasons, defections, a lack of chemistry, and unthinkable losses have marked Ben Howland‘s past three seasons and the beginning of this one. Pacific Takes says the next few weeks will determine Howland’s future with the school, as the Bruins take on three tough opponents in that span. If they can get through Christmas with a clean slate, the UCLA fan base will be charged up for what this team has in store for conference play. Anything less and those Pac-12 games could very well be Howland’s last.
  3. Arizona has opened the season with four wins and a Top 10 ranking, but the Wildcats are still a good bit away from reaching their peak. But if you’re looking for a “test-worthy” opponent to prove the Cats are legit, you’ll get plenty of opportunities in the coming days. Sean Miller’s club will take on Texas Tech and Clemson on the road before facing a Sweet Sixteen type (and maybe even Elite Eight) team in Florida at the McKale Center. Sandwiched in is also a visit from a 6-0 Southern Miss squad. So if you’re holding out on Zona, you’ll get proof soon enough that this is a legit team.
  4. Arkansas-Pine Bluff threw everything it had, including a mixture of zones, at Arizona State on Wednesday night in hopes of an upset. It didn’t work, but it did teach freshman point guard Jahii Carson and the Sun Devils how not to play against a zone; trying to shoot the Golden Lions out of it instead of attacking a weaker and smaller defense inside. In the end, however, this was still a fine win for Arizona State. These types of games have been ones to trip up Herb Sendek and ASU in the past, so a 13-point win to get to 5-1 on the season is fine in my book.
  5. Finally, some congratulations is due to Drew. This space is usually saved for our Pac-12 football picks each week, but Drew clinched the contest last Friday when Utah’s Reggie Dunn returned a Colorado kickoff 100 yards to beat the Buffaloes, 42-35. The final scoreboard shows Team Murawa up six, and with only tonight’s UCLA-Stanford and tomorrow’s Nicholls State-Oregon State match-ups remaining, not even I can catch up. If you haven’t already, check out our college hoops pick’em, which we began yesterday. We’re already off to a great start thanks to young Kentucky’s flop in South Bend.
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A Peek Into The UCLA Pecking Order

Posted by AMurawa on November 21st, 2012

With the newly eligible Shabazz Muhammad joining the rotation, it was unclear exactly how Ben Howland would fold the highly-regarded freshman into a wing-heavy lineup. Fellow freshman Jordan Adams had established himself in the first three games as the team’s best pure scorer. Sophomore Norman Powell had earned the starting two-guard spot, while last year’s incumbent Tyler Lamb was recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery. And then there’s freshman Kyle Anderson, a man without a position who is mostly a point guard (or point forward, or just a point) on the offensive end and some sort of wing player defensively. With David Wear going down with injury at the end of the semifinal game in the Legends Classic against Georgetown, the consolation game against Georgia provided a glimpse into Howland’s estimate of the strengths of his team and where the priorities may lie in his rotation. Would clear interior guys like junior Joshua Smith and freshman Tony Parker slide up the depth chart to fill the departed Wear’s spot, or would Howland find room for all his talented perimeter guys to work together.

David Wear, UCLA

With David Wear Out Following An Injury. Ben Howland Was Forced To Tip His Hand On His Rotation

The answer was clearly the latter, although it is open to evolve based on improvement and opposition. While Travis Wear earned 32 minutes of action, Smith and Parker combined for 19 minutes, meaning there were 11 minutes of action where UCLA had a pair of big guys on the floor. Larry Drew II is clearly locked in at the point guard, with his 5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and solid defense providing plenty of ammunition for that decision, while Anderson, Muhammad, Powell and Adams are in the mix for the minutes at the two through four spots. It remains likely that Howland will opt for two big guys (meaning some combination of two of the Wears, Smith and Parker) for the majority of minutes, although last night’s game provides some precedent for going with the four-out, one-in model (not that this conglomeration of players would make for the traditional example of that style). The biggest concern brought to light by the results of last night’s game were the rebounding numbers, where Georgia made an impact on the offensive glass, especially in the second half, and the relatively undersized Bruin front line failed to regularly secure defensive rebounds.

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Shabazz Muhammad Reinstated, Will Play Monday

Posted by AMurawa on November 16th, 2012

A week ago about this time, as college hoops fans everywhere were celebrating their return of their favorite sport, the NCAA threw some cold water on an excited UCLA fan base, getting ready to open their newly remodeled Pauley Pavilion and welcome their highly regarded freshman class. The news from the NCAA that Shabazz Muhammad was ineligible for action last Friday night was hardly a surprise, but the lack of clarity about the future was concerning for fans of the sport. Now, a week later, the NCAA has just given Bruin fans reason to celebrate, releasing a statement just minutes ago that Muhammad’s eligibility case had been resolved and that the talented freshman would be ready to go immediately.

Shabazz Muhammad

With Eligibility Questions Now Behind Him, Muhammad Joins A UCLA Team Loaded At The Wing

On the heels of last night’s exciting demolition of James Madison and with a matchup with Georgetown looming on Monday (not to mention the possibility of Indiana on Tuesday), this is obviously great news for UCLA. The NCAA ruled that Muhammad needs to repay $1,600 in impermissible benefits related to a pair of unofficial visits to North Carolina and Duke and sit out 10% of the season, a figure equivalent to three games. Since Muhammad has already missed three games, he’ll be in uniform and ready to go Monday night.

Odds are good he’ll be in the starting lineup, but with the emergence of fellow freshman Jordan Adams, and with returnees Norman Powell and Tyler Lamb vying for minutes, it will be interesting to see exactly how Howland decides to disburse minutes for the Bruins at a loaded wing spot.

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The Good, The Very Good And The Even Better From UCLA’s Blowout Win

Posted by AMurawa on November 15th, 2012

Ok. Let’s get the “yeah, but…” out of the way. Yeah, UCLA dominated. But, it was just James Madison, the last team to get its 2012-13 season underway. I could tell you about how the Dukes were starting four seniors after an injury-plagued year last season, and I could tell you about the how this team has a chance to make some noise in CAA play later this year, but, yeah, it’s just James Madison. Yeah, this was only the third time UCLA has hit the century mark in the Ben Howland era. But yeah, this was just James Madison.

Jordan Adams, UCLA

Jordan Adams Became The First UCLA Freshman To Score 20 Or More Points In Three Consecutive Games (Jeff Gross, Getty Images)

But, way back in April when Howland was putting the finishing touches on the nation’s #1 rated class, this is the kind of game that Bruin fans and college basketball aficionados had in mind. Led by point guards Larry Drew II and Kyle Anderson, the Bruins were out in transition early and often, with players such as Norman Powell and the history-making Jordan Adams running the wings and alternately knocking down threes or slamming home tomahawk jams on the break. When it came to the halfcourt game, the Wear Twins and big guys Joshua Smith and Tony Parker dominated the smaller JMU team, scoring in the paint and causing trouble on the defensive end. Not only were the Bruins playing very effective basketball, but they were doing it in a very exciting manner. Really, there was very little to nitpick about the UCLA performance in the first half. And, by halftime it was all but over. But, let’s pick out a handful of Bruins (apologies to Drew, the Wears and Parker for the omission) and break down the mostly good and little bit of bad tonight, with a heavy emphasis on the dominating first half.

  • Kyle Anderson: Let’s start with the one Bruin who struggled a bit offensively tonight. Sure, Anderson wound up with 12 boards and four assists, but he had his struggles from the field. On multiple occasions, Anderson made great moves to worm his way into the lane, only to put up weak attempts at the hoop. The fact that he plays mostly below the rim and is not adept at using his body to get separation from defenders is going to be a detriment to him in traffic throughout the year. He’s got excellent body control (in fact, the one first half field goal he made was on a beautiful double-clutch up-and-under layup) and great instincts, but he’s got a find a way to start making the point-blank looks in traffic. Beyond that, wow, is he good. He’s got a nose for the ball and an innate court vision that cannot be taught. Read the rest of this entry »
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Marching to Vegas: How Can UCLA Find It’s Way?

Posted by AMurawa on October 19th, 2012

From the moment it was first rumored, the relocation of the conference tournament to Las Vegas has created quite a buzz among Pac-12 basketball fans. Adam Butler (@pachoopsAB) of PacHoops will be here every week as he offers his unique perspective along our March to Vegas.

Midnight’s madness has come and gone and so it begins. Or something like that. There still aren’t games or standings but there’s optimism and the knowing that those eternally glorious things are soon to come. And with season’s beginning there’s new dialogue. From transfers to healed wounds to recruiting classes and seniors, the Pac-12 dialogue hasn’t necessarily centered on last season’s monstrosity but rather the potential for a return to glory. Or at least something resembling such.

Howland Has Loads of Talent Now, But Is It His Kind of Talent? (credit: LA Times)

The unfortunate twist is the immense questioning of the prognosticated success in Westwood. Here is a program that needs no introduction but gross amounts of explanation and dissection when examining their current state. I could rattle off the tribulations of the recent past but that’d feel like piling on which I’d feel is unfair considering the optimism surrounding this program in light of their 2012 recruiting haul.

[Enter: ominous cloud]

But that’s right, we’re all too familiar with the investigative cloud hovering over new Pauley and the once glowing forecast of the 2012-13 Bruins. Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson continue to be investigated by the NCAA. You don’t need me to tell you that this is not good news considering much of UCLA’s projected success was centering on these young talents, particularly Muhammad. As the investigation drags on (ask Jahii Carson about timelines on such matters), the ominous cloud grows darker. How long will Anderson (he who faces the less stiff allegations) be held out? Is Muhammad done for the year? How big of a distraction is this to the team? Then of course we could question just how good the current, confirmed roster is. Has Larry Drew II matured? Will Josh Smith ever realize his potential? What sort of progress have Tyler Lamb (now injured) and Norman Powell made? Are the twins capable of being difference makers or are they role players?

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Pac-12 Team Previews: UCLA Bruins

Posted by AMurawa on October 16th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the Pac-12 microsite will be rolling out these featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release is the UCLA Bruins.

Strengths.  Talent. The Bruins feature seven former McDonald’s All-Americans on their roster, including three from last year’s game. The argument could be made that this roster has more raw talent than any other team in the country. The challenge for head coach Ben Howland is going to be harnessing this talent, as some players on this roster – most notably junior center Joshua Smith and senior point guard Larry Drew II – have yet to live up to those expectations. Still, the talent is there, and what’s more it is big, with four guys in the rotation checking in a 6’9” or better and an additional group of five different wings standing between 6’4” and 6’9”.

Joshua Smith, UCLA

Joshua Smith’s Talent Is Undeniable, But He Has Still Yet To Live Up To His Potential

Weaknesses. Despite all that talent, it remains to be seen just how the roles get distributed on this team. For instance, with freshman small forward Shabazz Muhammad expected to see the beginning of his likely brief college career delayed by an NCAA investigation, and with junior wing Tyler Lamb already laid up after getting his knee scoped, the Bruins find themselves mighty thin at the three. What’s more, with Smith, the Wear twins and freshman center Tony Parker all best suited for either the four or the five, there is quite a wait for playing time at those positions. Then there are the question marks at the point; Drew is expected to take the reins there from the get-go, but his performance and leadership at his previous stop in Chapel Hill leaves some dubious as to his ability to run this team. Meanwhile, freshman wing Kyle Anderson has all the offensive skills necessary to be an elite playmaker for the team, but could be a liability if forced to guard smaller, quicker lead guards.

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Pac-12 M5: 10.09.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on October 9th, 2012

  1. Way back on April 11, Shabazz Muhammad signed with UCLA, guaranteeing Ben Howland one of the year’s best recruiting classes and boosting the hopes of Bruins’ fans. While there have been some good moments since then (such as when Tony Parker eventually committed to UCLA as well), now nearly six months later, the Bruins are on a bit of a losing streak even though they have yet to play a game. They learned yesterday that returning starter Tyler Lamb will miss at least a month while recovering from knee surgery. Throw that on top of the NCAA investigations into Muhammad and fellow recruits Parker and Kyle Anderson, along with bad news from Joshua Smith’s scale, and there is some concern as to where this season is going. However, on the bright side, Lamb will likely be back soon after the season begins, and even if UCLA plays without him for a handful of games, sophomore guard Norman Powell should be ready and willing to step in and use the available minutes to make his case for more playing time.
  2. As for the other question marks mentioned above, UCLA fans are hoping to get some positive answers. First, on the matter of Joshua Smith’s diet, once again progress is being reported. Though there is still no one that will actually go on record with a three-digit number meant to accurately represent his weight, Smith claims that his body fat percentage is down from 25% when he came to campus two years ago to just 17% today, with a future goal of 10%. Still, at this point, especially given last year’s often lackluster effort, college basketball fans will largely take a wait-and-see approach to Smith’s waistline. Meanwhile, Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson have begun preliminary workouts with the Bruins despite the fact that the NCAA has yet to rule on their eligibility. This means (correct me if I am wrong) that for the next 45 days, these guys are eligible to practice with the team and play in games. Once those 45 days expire, either they must be cleared or they must stop working out with the team until their investigations are resolved. The scuttlebutt is that Anderson will be cleared by the NCAA (although, until that actually happens, Bruins fans have every right to be nervous), while any guess on Muhammad’s eventual status is just that, a guess.
  3. Lamb’s knee surgery isn’t the only big injury news around the conference. California head coach Mike Montgomery announced on Monday that sophomore guard Ricky Kreklow underwent surgery on his right foot and will be out of action for up to two months. Kreklow transferred into Berkeley after spending one season at Missouri, where he shot 28.3% from three in limited minutes as a freshman in 2010-11. After sitting out last season per NCAA rules, the former Mr. Basketball in Missouri in 2010 was expected to jump into the Golden Bear starting lineup this season as a three-point shooting specialist, but instead will have to serve as a midseason reinforcement. Coupled with the transfers of guards Alex Rossi and Emerson Murray this offseason, the Bears now find themselves slightly shorthanded in the backcourt, with returning starters Justin Cobbs and Allen Crabbe being joined by Brandon Smith and freshman Tyrone Wallace. The injury could mean that instead of employing a three-guard starting lineup of Cobbs, Crabbe and Kreklow, Cal could opt to go bigger along the front line. Stay tuned.
  4. Last week, the consensus #1 player in the 2013 recruiting class, Jabari Parker, narrowed his list of potential schools down to five. This is important for Pac-12 fans for a couple of different reasons. First, and foremost, Stanford is one of the quintet of schools remaining as possible landing spots for the versatile wing. Johnny Dawkins already has commitments from the Allen twins (Marcus and Malcolm), but adding an elite recruit the level of Parker would bring a whole different level of recruit to The Farm. The other bit of interest about Parker involves Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak, who apparently was shown on a Salt Lake City television station talking about Parker, a potential NCAA violation. However, Rob Dauster argues that since the Utes no longer stand a chance of landing Parker (the Utes are not among his final five), Krystkowiak can get off on a technicality. Still, the coach should know better.
  5. It’s not all bumbles and stumbles along the recruiting trail for Krystkowiak, however, as the Utah head man continues his pursuit of Michael Williams, a 6’2” point guard out of Texas. He just finished an official visit with the program last week and now will decide between the Utes, TCU and Penn. The fact that those are the other schools in on Williams’ recruitment indicates that he’s not likely to be a player who makes a huge impact, but he is a bigger lead guard than anybody currently on the roster with Glen Dean and Brandon Taylor both checking in under six feet. Krystkowiak already has a couple 2013 shooting guard commitments, while also chasing Las Vegas point guard Julian Jacobs and southern California lead guard Brandon Randolph.
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UCLA Week: Running Down The Returnees

Posted by AMurawa on August 15th, 2012

Five significant Bruins return for Ben Howland this season, a quintet that will be called upon to quickly meld with four freshmen and a newly eligible transfer. Below we’ll break down those returnees in order of their per-game scoring averages last season.

Travis Wear, Junior, Forward (11.5 PPG, 5.9 RPG) – In his first season in Westwood, Travis, the younger of the two Wear twins by a minute, was the most efficient offensive player on the team. Combining excellent shooting percentages (53.3% from the field and a 57.9% true shooting rate) with terrific rebounding numbers (his 13.2% offensive rebound rate was in the top 70 in the nation last year), Travis proved himself to be an adept competitor in and around the lane. More capable of slashing to the basket and finishing off-balance opportunities than his brother, he also shone on the defensive end, finishing second to Anthony Stover with more than a block per game. After being away from on-court action for more than a year due to his transfer from North Carolina, Travis became more comfortable as the season went on, recording three double-doubles in his final eight games of the year. While his role will likely be similar in the 2012-13 season, expect him to step away from the hoop a bit more and rely on his good mid-range jumper, clearing up the lane not only for big man Joshua Smith, but also for freshman slashers Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson. One disturbing number from 2011-12 does need to change, however. In 786 minutes of court time, he tallied a grand total of 13 assists.

David Wear, UCLA

David Wear Took One For The Team In 2011-12 And Spent Some Time Playing Out Of Position At The Three (photo credit: Lawrence K. Ho, Los Angeles Times)

David Wear, Junior, Forward (10.2 PPG, 6.3 RPG) – UCLA opened last season with six different players who were primarily power forwards or centers fighting for minutes. With no other pure small forward on the squad, it was a foregone conclusion that one of those six bigs would have to spend some time out of position at the three. David was that guy, spending at least some time at the three despite his 6’10” frame and comfort around the basket. David still wound up as the team’s leading rebounder, snatching 6.3 rebounds per game, with more than 65% of those boards came on the defensive end. Offensively, he showed an ability to hit the three-point shot, shooting 46.7% from deep, albeit in less than one three-point attempt per game. In 2012-13, with the UCLA roster more balanced and with more talent at the three (Shabazz Muhammad is a lead-pipe cinch to get the majority of the minutes there, with Kyle Anderson and even Tyler Lamb and Jordan Adams potentially getting some time there), David will likely shift back solely to the four, although much like his brother, will be a bit more of a stretch four offensively.

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Breaking Down a Potential UCLA-Indiana Final in the Legends Classic

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 7th, 2012

Christopher Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Playing formidable competition in early season invitational tournaments is the best way to build a solid RPI foundation upon which to base the rest of your non-conference schedule. In recent years, as teams have adjusted to the notion that non-league scheduling does, in fact, have an appreciable affect on the bubble cut line come Selection Sunday, these tournaments have provided some intriguing matchups featuring national title contenders. The Legends Classic, one of the more anticipated tournaments in the early season college hoops calendar, released its bracket Monday. The 12-team field, on the whole, is a bit underwhelming, but tournament organizers did do us the favor of setting up a potentially epic finale on November 20 at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Indiana and UCLA, after staging two regional round games on their respective home courts, will need to win only one game against a power conference team before meeting in the tournament’s final game. If UCLA can sneak by Georgetown and Indiana takes care of business against Georgia, the two surefire preseason top-five outfits will put it all on the line for the Legends Classic crown.

Joshua Smith, UCLA

The Legends Classic bracket features two national championship contenders in Indiana and UCLA (Credit: Associated Press).

That’s must-see viewing for any college hoops fan, a tantalizing early season matchup of Final Four-worthy opponents. With more than three months remaining before the bracket kicks off, there’s plenty of time to salivate over this enticing showdown. But in these news-bereft late summer months, where Midnight Madness can’t come soon enough, I’m bringing you a way-too-early positional breakdown of what figures to be one of the best non-league fixtures in the upcoming season. To take this a step further, I’ll provide a prediction, score included, as a way of sparking the debate for which team is better positioned to make good on their considerable preseason hype. Remember, Georgetown or Georgia could knock off UCLA and/or Indiana in the semifinals and thus prevent the more favorable and altogether more entertaining finals matchup. But if the Hoosiers and Bruins are indeed what most preseason prognosticators are making them out to be, they should both advance to the championship round. Still, there’s no guarantee, so take this predictive exercise at face value.

Point guard: Yogi Ferrell/Jordan Hulls vs. Kyle Anderson/Larry Drew II

If Ferrell outplays hulls in preseason practice, Crean likely will insert him into the starting lineup in time for this highly-touted matchup. Ferrell is a true point guard who penetrates and finishes at the rim, but scoring won’t be his primary responsibility this season; facilitating the group of talented finishers around him—guys like Victor Oladipo, Will Sheehey, Christian Watford and Cody Zeller—is the first order of business. Hulls has been around long enough to remember discernibly darker days in Bloomington, the pre-Kentucky upset era—faraway as it may seem—and can make up for his deficiencies on defense with experience, leadership and pinpoint three-point marksmanship. He may ultimately start alongside Ferrell at the two. Countering the Hoosiers’ duo is Anderson, one of the more intriguing skills-to-size prospects in the 2012 class. At 6’7″, Anderson poses a major athletic and size advantage over most every point guard, yet he also boasts the shrewd ball handling, court vision and mid-range touch to excel at the position. He functions efficiently on the low block, posting up defenders and finding open shooters on the perimeter. Drew II, a year after transferring from North Carolina, will challenge Anderson for the starting job. Both players should see significant floor time this season, and they could split minutes in this early nonleague tournament.

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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 Comings and Goings: Shabazz Muhammad and Josiah Turner

Posted by AMurawa on April 12th, 2012

It was a big day of comings and goings in the Pac-12 on Wednesday as the picture surrounding the two historic basketball powers in the conference crystallized a bit. UCLA and its embattled head coach Ben Howland got a piece of great news as the nation’s #2 recruit – Shabazz Muhammad – announced his intentions to attend the school next year, while Arizona finally cleared up the status of freshman point guard Josiah Turner when it was announced he would be transferring out of the program.

Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA

Shabazz Muhammad Gives The Bruins Plenty Of Talent And Plenty Of Options

First, the Bruins. Despite UCLA’s struggles over the past three seasons (their 56-43 record since 2009-10 is the worst three-year record in program history since Wilbur Johns went 38-36 from 1945 to 1948 prior to the John Wooden era), Howland was able to add Muhammad to an already strong recruiting class that already featured the #5 recruit in the nation (according to ESPNU) – Kyle Anderson – and highly touted sharpshooter Jordan Adams. And, with the program still in hot pursuit of widebody Tony Parker, their haul could get even gaudier. Muhammad is an explosive offensive talent with the ability to throw down highlight-reel dunks with the best of them as well as knock down threes or score in a variety of ways in between. He will join a roster that features plenty of depth and versatility. Muhammad can play either the two or the three, and he is joined on the wings by returnees like Tyler Lamb and Norman Powell, a pair of nice pieces as well as Adams. Anderson as well can play the two or the three, but he is very adept with the ball in his hands and will play a part at the point, along with controversial North Carolina transfer Larry Drew Jr. And then up front, there are the Wear twins as well as big man Joshua Smith (although there is still a chance, somehow, that Smith could decide on his own or be encouraged to leave early), and perhaps Parker. In short, Howland has put together a ton of pieces in Westwood, but he’ll need to prove his ability to congeal those parts into a gestalt. Is Drew the answer at the point or can Anderson run the Bruin offense? Can Howland open up the offense enough to take advantage of Muhammad’s vast skills in the open court? Can Smith lose half a hundred pounds and be effective for 25 minutes a night? Can the Wear twins develop their offensive games and their defensive toughness? And can Lamb or Powell be counted on to knock down threes when called upon, or will Adams jump ahead of them in the rotation? There are plenty of questions to be answered at UCLA, but one thing is for certain: it should be fun to see it all play out.

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Pac-12 Burning Questions: Missing A Transfer?

Posted by AMurawa on January 26th, 2012

Each week through conference play, we’ll offer up a couple of different takes on the biggest question of the week in the Pac-12. This week:

“Which recent Pac-12 transfer would do the most to help his former team this year?”

 

Andrew Murawa: Where to begin? There have been so many transfers around the conference in recent years that seemingly every team has been hit hard by one loss or another. Utah has had multiple players transfer out, leaving head coach Larry Krystkowiak with a nearly empty cupboard when he arrived – they could certainly make use of the offensive punch of either current Colorado senior Carlon Brown (although he would have used up his eligibility by now without the transfer) or Marshall Henderson, who will begin his sophomore season at Texas Tech next year. Bryce Jones would give the ridiculously shorthanded USC squad some firepower, but he is currently sitting out his transfer season at UNLV. Arizona State is currently struggling with its backcourt depth, and Demetrius Walker, currently struggling to earn playing time at New Mexico, would certainly be ready to provide minutes for Herb Sendek’s team. And that’s just a partial list.

Mike Moser, UNLV

Mike Moser's Athleticism And Perimeter Abilities Would Greatly Help The Current UCLA Team (photo credit: John Gurzinski, AP Photo)

But really, let’s not get too fancy here. The Pac-12 transfer who would do the most to help his former team is Mike Moser, the best player on the list. Moser left UCLA in April 2010 in search of playing time that Ben Howland either could not or would not find for him. After sitting out last season, he’s become a force at UNLV this year, averaging 14 points and 11.3 rebounds per game, while contributing an athleticism and even a three-point shooting presence that is sorely missing at UCLA. While Moser couldn’t earn consistent minutes as a freshman in 2009-10 on a team that started guys like James Keefe and Nikola Dragovic up front, he would be far and away the most athletic frontcourt player on the squad, and together with freshman guard Norman Powell, one of just two above-average Pac-12 athletes on the team. His ability to rebound has been well documented (he grabs 28.1% of defensive rebounds, good for ninth in the nation, and his 12.9% offensive rebounding rate is somewhat restricted by his tendency to play on the perimeter offensively) but he would also provide some punch outside (he hits slightly more than one three per game at a 32.4% rate). Throw in the fact that he would be the one player on the squad who could effectively match up defensively with athletic threes, freeing up the Wear twins to play primarily at the four and five, and he would be a major boon to a struggling UCLA defense. Moser is a prime example of why it is important for coaches to expand their rotations a bit and at least find a bit of time for youngsters, keeping those guys involved, finding out what they can do and providing them the promise of a chance to contribute to the program in more substantial ways in the future.

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