Rushed Reactions: Duke 80, UCLA 63

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 20th, 2013


Brian Otskey filed this report after Duke’s win over UCLA on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.

Three Key Takeaways.

Duke Used a Superb Second Half Effort to Run Past the Bruins

Duke Used a Superb Second Half Effort to Run Past the Bruins

  1. Duke is getting better defensively. After a so-so defensive first half, Duke held UCLA to 26 points on 34.5 percent shooting in the second stanza. In particular, Rodney Hood did a terrific job containing Jordan Adams and keeping him out of any kind of rhythm. The Blue Devils also frustrated Zach LaVine into a number of bad shots that fueled Duke’s transition attack. Holding the nation’s third-leading scoring team to 63 points is a feather in Duke’s cap and it appears Mike Krzyzewski’s much-maligned defense is starting to come together. If the Blue Devils can defend at this kind of level, they will be the clear favorites in the ACC.
  2. Rasheed Sulaimon may have found his role. Sulaimon had a terrific freshman season for Duke in 2012-13 but his second go-around in Durham has been anything but smooth sailing. After being benched against Michigan and playing only five minutes against Gardner-Webb, Sulaimon gained a lot of confidence in 18 minutes of action tonight. While he was only 3-of-7 from the floor, Sulaimon grabbed five rebounds and dished out four assists. On a team with so many options, he needs to carve out a role for himself without trying to do too much. He did just that tonight and his teammates and coaches noticed. This should serve Sulaimon well going forward and get him out of Coach K’s doghouse.
  3. UCLA needs to figure it out defensively. UCLA entered the game allowing opponents to score 70.2 points per game but allowed 80 Duke points on 48.4 percent shooting. We knew defending the three-point line was going to be key for the Bruins tonight but they did not do a good job. Duke shot a lukewarm 34.4 percent from beyond the arc but it bombarded UCLA with 32 attempts and 11 makes. This has been a recurring issue for Steve Alford’s team this season and until it figures it out, there will be a ceiling to how far it can go. Offense can take you a long way but against top competition such as Duke and the kind they will face in the NCAA Tournament, the Bruins must do better.

Star of the Game:  Jabari Parker, Duke. The stud Blue Devil freshman shined once again under the bright lights. Parker put together a double-double, tallying 23 points and 10 rebounds on an efficient 7-of-13 shooting night. The 6’8” forward also recorded five assists in the win. UCLA had a difficult time matching up with Parker and it showed. He basically got what he wanted on any part of the court whether it was from long range or around the basket.

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Three Questions Previewing Duke and UCLA Tonight

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 19th, 2013

When Duke and UCLA lock horns for the first time in 11 years tonight at Madison Square Garden in New York City (7:30 PM EST, ESPN), plenty of offensive fireworks figure to be on display. These teams are elite offensively with UCLA ranking third nationally in points per game at 89.1 and Duke not too far behind at 86.0. For as potent as these teams are offensively, their defenses leave a lot to be desired. What we have is a recipe for an up-tempo game, lots of points, and a fun viewing experience. There are also plenty of intriguing match-ups in this game when you look at each squad’s style of play. While their statistics are similar, the teams are constructed very differently. Let’s take a look at three key questions that will decide the result of this contest.

Steve Alford, UCLA

Steve Alford Brings His Bruins to MSG to Face Duke Tonight (Damian Dovarganes/AP)

1. Can UCLA guard the three-point line?

Much has been made of Duke’s defensive issues but defense has also been a problem for Steve Alford’s Bruins, especially when it comes to guarding the all-important three-point line. The Bruins’ 2-3 zone was torched by Missouri in their only loss of the season back on December 7. Missouri made 10 threes which proved to be the primary difference in the game. As a whole, Duke shoots 42 percent from beyond the arc and 45 percent of all Blue Devils’ field goal attempts are triples. Mike Krzyzewski’s team features four lethal perimeter threats and that may be too much for the Bruins to handle. While UCLA’s zone may help contain Duke’s versatile forwards from cutting to the basket, it opens the door for a Blue Devil three-point bombardment. Alford may be forced to extend the zone but his team’s performance will come down to the effort of guards like Norman Powell and a pair of freshmen (Zach LaVine and Bryce Alford) getting out to cover Duke’s shooters.

2. Will Duke be able to prevent UCLA from getting into the paint?

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Do Yourself a Favor: Watch UCLA Freshman Zach LaVine Play

Posted by Chris Johnson on December 11th, 2013

Anyone who watched Missouri beat UCLA last Saturday probably came away impressed with the Tigers’ backcourt trio of Jordan Clarkson, Earnest Ross and Jabari Brown. The three guards combined for 63 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists, and attacked UCLA’s defense from inside and out, on the break and in the half-court, on spot-ups and dribble penetration. The Tigers were impressive, so it was no surprise to see them ranked no. 24 in the AP Poll released on Monday. If you watched Missouri beat the Bruins, you might even be inclined to argue that the Tigers deserve a higher ranking. I was impressed with Missouri. I think it was underrated heading into the season. Now that coach Frank Haith is done serving a suspension that – if we’re being totally honest – should have kept him away from the sidelines far longer than five games, the Tigers are in position to climb the rankings in the coming weeks, and maybe even challenge Tennessee and LSU for the de-facto SEC regular season bronze medal (i.e., the team that inevitably finishes behind Kentucky and Florida for third place). But what really struck me about Saturday’s game had nothing to do with Missouri. Near the end of the first half, Bruins freshman Zach LaVine pounced on a Tigers turnover just beyond his team’s three-point line, dribbled the length of the court, took off from one step inside the paint and flushed home a ferocious, one-handed windmill dunk.

This wasn’t the first time I had heard of LaVine. I knew coming into the season he was one of the nation’s better freshmen – though one who was more overlooked than he otherwise would have been in most years because of how loaded this freshman class is. I knew he was a good athlete, someone who could score, someone who could give the Bruins another scoring threat behind guards Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson. But this – one of the most impressive breakaway dunks I’ve seen from any player at any level – was something I wasn’t quite prepared for. So I spent some time looking around on YouTube, found this clip, rewound each of LaVine’s dunks at least three times and quickly came to the conclusion his jam against Missouri was downright mediocre by comparison.

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Pac-12 POY and FrOY Odds After One Month

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on December 11th, 2013

We’re a month into the season, something basically approaching the quarter-pole of the year. Let’s take a little time over the next couple days to recount what we’ve seen so far and prognosticate a bit about the rest of this year’s race. We begin with setting odds for both Pac-12 Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year.

Player of the Year Odds

  • Jahii Carson, Sophomore, Arizona State; Odds 4-1 – Let’s be honest: as good as Allen Crabbe was last season for Cal, it is sort of a crime that he won the conference POY award over Carson. So, with that in the back of voter’s minds, if it is even close come March, give Carson the benefit of the doubt. He’s struggled lately in part due to an ankle injury (he’s still averaging better than 20 points per game, however), but he is a singular talent in the conference, capable of scoring almost at will while still keeping his teammates involved. If ASU is going to make the NCAA Tournament, it is going to be because Carson was transcendent. And luckily for Herb Sendek, Carson is more than capable of transcendence.
After Missing Out Last Year, Jahii Carson is The Odds-On Favorite To Be Player of the Year in The Pac-12 This Season (Joe Nicholson, USA Today Sports)

After Missing Out Last Year, Jahii Carson is The Odds-On Favorite To Be Player of the Year in The Pac-12 This Season (Joe Nicholson, USA Today Sports)

  • Joseph Young, Junior, Oregon; Odds 5-1– Twenty points per game, sparkling shooting percentages across the board, an offensive efficiency rating through the roof, a surprising commitment to defensive intensity, and a quiet leadership on a squad littered with newcomers. If the Ducks are in the mix for the Pac-12 title, Young will be a big reason why.
  • Kyle Anderson, Sophomore, UCLA; Odds 6-1 – The most versatile player in the conference, Anderson is also one of the most exciting. A visionary passer, strong rebounder, capable scorer and a team leader, if Anderson continues to average something in the neighborhood of 13 points, nine boards and seven assists, he’ll be in the conversation for sure.

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Pac-12 Roundup: Week Four

Posted by Connor Pelton & Andrew Murawa on December 10th, 2013

Out of the country? Living under a rock? Here’s what you missed in the fourth week of Pac-12 basketball.

Power Rankings (As voted upon by Connor Pelton, Andrew Murawa, and Adam Butler):

Arizona is once again the unanimous favorite, with Oregon the unanimous runner-up. From there, things get muddied, but we all agree that while there isn’t a lot of difference between Washington State and, say, USC, the Cougars have the basement sewn up tight.

booker dinwiddie

Askia Booker And Spencer Dinwiddie Led A Balanced Buffaloes Attack In Their Upset Of Kansas On Saturday.

  1. Arizona
  2. Oregon
  3. Colorado
  4. UCLA
  5. Stanford
  6. Arizona State
  7. California
  8. Utah
  9. USC
  10. Oregon State
  11. Washington
  12. Washington State

Game of the Week: Kansas @ Colorado: Marshall Henderson and Mike Moser trading punches and going to overtime deep in the heart of SEC country might have taken this title any other week, but this spot belongs to the thrilling meeting between Kansas and Colorado in Boulder over the weekend. The Buffaloes came in as winners of their last eight, but they had been handled easily by their only other Big 12 opponent on their schedule, Baylor, on the first night of the season. In front of a raucous sold-out home crowd on Saturday, they were determined not to let it happen again. It appeared as if coach Tad Boyle and Colorado had the signature win locked up with 1:40 remaining, up 68-62, but a 10-4 Jayhawks’ run, made possible by some crucial missed free throws, tied the game with five seconds to go. That was just where the Buffs wanted their old Big 12 mates. Askia Booker received an inbounds pass and took two dribbles and a euro-step before launching a three-pointer that sent the C-Unit into a frenzy, dog-piling and rushing the court.

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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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Misperceptions and Missed Perceptions: Reviewing Some Preseason Predictions

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 5th, 2013

With four weeks of basketball now in the books, it’s time to take a quick glance back at some of the things we thought we knew in the preseason. Some notions have proved accurate, but early results have tested a slew of preseason hypotheses that we once felt confident in. Here are a few examples, on both sides of the ledger:

We Thought We Knew…

Andy Enfield Was the New Coach Bringing Exciting Offensive Basketball to LA

There Has Been Nothing Slow About Steve Alford's And UCLA's First Four Weeks

There Has Been Nothing Slow About Steve Alford’s And UCLA’s First Four Weeks

We weren’t the only ones who thought it was USC, with Andy Enfield now at the helm – and not UCLA, with new head man Steve Alford — which was going to be lighting up Pac-12 scoreboards in the City of Angels this winter. Back in October, Enfield told his players, “if you want to play slow, go to UCLA.” Well, USC isn’t playing slow – they are 33rd nationally in possessions per game –but they are playing slower than the Bruins, which are six spots ahead of them in that category. And if this first month means anything, perhaps Enfield should have also advised any of his players who enjoy scoring, winning, or both, to plan that transfer across town. USC is 5-3, with just one win against a team in KenPom’s top 230 (!!!) and an offensive efficiency that ranks them 170th nationally. UCLA, on the other hand, is 8-0 and averaging more than 90 PPG behind the 7th-most efficient offense in the country. Now, there is a necessary asterisk here: Alford inherited significantly more talent at his disposal than Enfield did. Even so, it was Enfield – not Alford — who invited the cross-town comparisons. The Dunk City architect better have something besides his mouth working by the time USC visits Pauley Pavilion on January 5; otherwise, his Trojans are firmly at risk of getting run out of Westwood, and contrary to popular belief, there would be nothing slow about it.  

The Complection of the Top of the Big 12

At this point, expecting Kansas to win the Big 12 generally equates to peeping out a Southern California window and looking for the sun in the morning. The Jayhawks may not have played their way out of the preseason expectation to win the Big 12 again this year, but they should have company at the top this time around. Marcus Smart and Oklahoma State, post play deficiencies aside, have looked every bit the part of Big 12 title contenders themselves, and many would now peg the Cowboys as Big 12 favorites (including yours truly). Kansas State and Baylor were next in line after the Pokes and Jayhawks a month ago, but the Wildcats have suffered through a miserable opening month, while Baylor has looked as shaky as a 7-1 team with two top-40 victories can look, with two of those wins coming against non-D-I competition and three of the other five earned with a final margin of victory of five points or fewer. Iowa State now looks like the team ready to take a step up in class. The Cyclones, 7-0 with a pair of top-40 victories of their own, could easily enter the Big 12 season undefeated and prepared to further shake up a suddenly unpredictable conference race.

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UCLA Needs to Answer Some Defensive Questions In Order to Meet Its Potential

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

When UCLA was dominating the then Pac-10 and reeling off three consecutive Final Four appearances under Ben Howland, it did so largely on the strength of defense. Not that the Bruins’ offense wasn’t strong as well, but for those three years, UCLA ranked in the top five nationally in defensive efficiency (according to KenPom). When the wheels first came off the bus under Howland beginning in 2009-10, the complete inability of UCLA to stop anyone was largely the culprit (although, really, that team was awful on both ends of the court). Since that year, while the team’s defense has certainly improved to respectable levels, they’ve never approached elite on that end of the court. Although, really, for that matter, they’ve not been elite on either end of the court.

Behind Talented Wings And Savvy Floor General Kyle Anderson, UCLA Is  Fearsome Offensive Squad (UCLA Athletics)

Behind Talented Wings And Savvy Floor General Kyle Anderson, UCLA Is Fearsome Offensive Squad (UCLA Athletics)

This season? It still remains to be seen how this will all shake out as UCLA’s schedule ramps up soon, but at this early point it appears that the Bruins will be one of the better teams in the nation at putting the ball in the basket. They’ve got a bevy of shooters, plenty of athletes, a savvy play-maker in Kyle Anderson, and some serviceable big guys. Thus far, they’ve been ridiculously exciting — and efficient — on the offensive end, but for this team to challenge Arizona for a Pac-12 title, a solid defense needs to be a part of the equation.

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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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Pac-12 M5: 10.25.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on October 25th, 2013


  1. Four-star power forward Zylan Cheatham, a Class of 2014 prospect out of South Mountain High School (AZ), is set to pick a school within the next week, and The Husky Haul breaks down why he would be a great fit at Washington. Cheatham is a tough, physical player that can also get up and down the floor with a great amount of quickness. Lorenzo Romar’s attacking style on the offensive end of the floor fits Cheatham’s game, and if Romar was able to land him, it would be the biggest get so far for next year’s class. New Mexico and San Diego State appear to be in a dead tie with Washington so this is definitely a decision to keep an eye on in the coming days. Cheatham had offers from nearly every big school in the nation and has already ruled out Georgetown, Miami (Florida), and Oregon, to name a few.
  2. A few Pac-12 teams have started to hold at least one open practice so far this October. First year UCLA head coach Steve Alford opened the doors to Pauley Pavilion last Sunday and over 1,000 fans stopping by to see how the team looked under the direction of Alford. The LA Times reported that both freshman Zach LaVine and junior Norman Powell are running the court well and have great athleticism around the rim. In addition, it looks like sophomore Kyle Anderson will once again be getting the ball in key situations for the Bruins in 2013-14. They open the regular season on November 8 against Drexel at Pauley.
  3. The argument can be made that Oregon guard Damyean Dotson is the most experienced sophomore in the conference. Dotson started 36 games last season for the Ducks and was the team’s second-leading scorer as a freshman, so hopes are high in Eugene that he can continue that type of production and not go through the “sophomore slump”. Where he needs to improve is on the glass. It wasn’t much of a problem last year with a solid corps of big men, but with four key rebounders now gone, everyone needs to step up.
  4. Oregon State passed on a traditional “Midnight Madness” event this year (as they have the past seven seasons), but will be hosting a free “for the fans” type gathering next Friday. The event will precede the Beaver football game against USC later that day, and fans can meet the team and get autographs and prizes. It would be nice to see a scrimmage from Craig Robinson‘s team, but this is a good start. Maybe next year.
  5. Last week Drew and I re-started our regular weekly pick ‘em contest. Last week we differed on three selections, and Arizona and Notre Dame ended up coming up big for me. However, Drew did pick Stanford’s big home win against UCLA, so that puts him at 45-14 and myself at 48-11. Our picks are below, and with two Top 25 match-ups being played 45 minutes apart in the state of Oregon, we have two “games of the week” to provide a score for.
Game Connor’s Pick Drew’s Pick
Utah at USC USC Utah
UCLA at Oregon Oregon 52, UCLA 41 Oregon 45, UCLA 31
Arizona at Colorado Arizona Arizona
Stanford at Oregon State Oregon State 31, Stanford 28 Stanford 26, Oregon State 19
California at Washington Washington Washington
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