Jan 25, 2013, 12:04 AM EDT
Shabazz Muhammad went for 23 points and Jordan Adams added 15 as UCLA went into the McKale Center and knocked off No. 6 Arizona 84-73 on Thursday night.
It was as impressive of a performance as we’ve seen out of this Bruin program since Ben Howland led them to their third straight Final Four in 2008. UCLA jumped out to a 19-3 lead before the second TV timeout and never let the Wildcats get closer than four points the rest of the way.
Thoroughly beating a team like that on the road is impressive on its own. But UCLA did it while Travis Wear, arguably their most important player since Howland turned UCLA into a running team, spent the end of the first half and the entire second half sitting on the bench with a concussion. It also deserves mention that Adams was dealing with what UCLA termed cramps during the second half.
And UCLA still didn’t buckle as Arizona made a second half run in front of a raucous home crowd.
Oregon has to be considered not only the favorite to win the Pac-12 this season, but also the best team in the league this year. Not only do they have a two game (or more) lead on everyone in the conference other than UCLA, they’ve already beaten Arizona and UCLA. This win over UCLA came on Saturday in Pauley Pavilion. And the Ducks won’t face either team again this season. It’s their title to lose.
But I don’t think the Bruins are all that far off their pace.
The bigger question mark is with Arizona.
The Wildcats have an impressive computer profile in both the RPI and Kenpom. They have an impressive record and some impressive wins this season. But there are issues when you look past the box score.
For starters, Arizona’s only dominant win over a relevant team came on Saturday at Arizona State. When they beat Long Beach State, the 49ers didn’t have their transfers eligible yet. Florida gave away a win when they decided to commit consecutive turnovers in the back court and miss a front-end in the final minute. Colorado blew a 10 point lead in the final four minutes and had what should have been a game-winning three waved off. Miami was playing just their second game without Reggie Johnson in the lineup. (Arizona made a comeback in the San Diego State game as well, but I thought they played well in that game, so I’m leaving it out of this discussion.)
Those four wins, as a result, are going to look much better on paper than they did to the naked eye.
And well the eye-test is far from a scientific method, it is enough for me to be concerned about the Wildcats.
For starters, Arizona has a number of solid pieces on the offensive end of the floor, but they don’t have that one guy that a coach is forced to game-plan around. There is no Mason Plumlee or Doug McDermott. They don’t have a Trey Burke or a Russ Smith. There isn’t even a guy like a Shabazz Muhammad or a Jordan Adams, someone that will scare opposing coaches.
That’s not a crippling issue, and neither is the fact that the Wildcats are playing this season without a true point guard. I like Mark Lyons. I think he’s a good player and a good scorer. But he’s not a point guard. He’s not a facilitator, creator or leader. He had 16 points tonight, but he also shot 6-17 from the floor and had five turnovers and no assists. On the season, he’s now averaging 15.2 points, 3.2 assists and 3.0 turnovers. Again, that would be fine if the Wildcats had a Draymond Green or a Grant Gibbs on their roster, but they don’t.
Arizona is not a bad basketball team.
They’re good. They have enough talent that finishing outside of the top three in the Pac-12 would be a major disappointment, and they’ve proven that a) they never give up on a game, and b) they have the moxie to fight back late and win a game in crunch.
But their record is deceiving.
Hypothetically speaking, if Kenny Boynton doesn’t choke, Sabatino Chen’s shot counted and Nick Johnson misses the block against Chase Tapley, how would you view the Wildcats?
Because it shouldn’t be all that much different than how you view them now.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.
Apr 18, 2015, 10:27 PM EDT
Wood returning would ensure that this young but talented front line wouldn’t lack for experience.
Apr 18, 2015, 8:56 PM EDT
Missouri is hopeful that these two junior college products can help them rebound from a tough 2014-15.
Apr 18, 2015, 7:44 PM EDT
Josh Speidel hadn’t spoken since the crash February 1. His first word: “Mom.”
Apr 18, 2015, 6:15 PM EDT
Chris Collins and his staff have done a good job of recruiting local talent, and they reeled in another player Saturday.
Apr 18, 2015, 5:25 PM EDT
Lightfoot was on the receiving end of offers from Arizona State and Utah before committing to UNM, and the new staff at ASU has already reached out to him.
Apr 18, 2015, 4:39 PM EDT
Miller averaged 16.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game last season, and he’s an important addition for the UConn front court.
Apr 18, 2015, 4:15 PM EDT
More arrests at Iowa State as two more members of the 2014-15 roster were charged within the last week.
Apr 18, 2015, 3:15 PM EDT
Boise State received some encouraging news this week as Anthony Drmic is returning for another season.
Apr 18, 2015, 2:36 PM EDT
Hammons’ decision to return makes the Boilermakers a Top 25 team.
Apr 18, 2015, 2:15 PM EDT
Rutgers head coach Eddie Jordan has been taking classes at the school in order to complete his degree.
Apr 18, 2015, 1:15 PM EDT
A look at the top storylines from the 14th annual Jordan Brand Classic.
Apr 18, 2015, 11:58 AM EDT
Illinois landed a huge graduate transfer on Saturday.
Apr 18, 2015, 10:45 AM EDT
Coppin State junior guard Sterling Smith is looking like a prime graduate transfer.
Apr 18, 2015, 9:35 AM EDT
Kentucky five-star big man Skal Labissiere believes that the NCAA will allow him to play this season.
Apr 17, 2015, 10:23 PM EDT
Cheick Diallo won named MVP for both the McDonald’s All-American Game and Jordan Brand Classic.
Apr 17, 2015, 9:30 PM EDT
Hoiberg just completed his fifth season at Iowa State.
Apr 17, 2015, 8:20 PM EDT
The Aztecs now have no commits for 2016.
Apr 17, 2015, 7:18 PM EDT
Domantas Sabonis previously announced he would return.
Apr 17, 2015, 6:05 PM EDT
The Jordan Brand Classic is Friday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Apr 17, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT
The former Villanova guard cut his list to eight.
- Former Cornell forward Shonn Miller headed to UConn for final season of eligibility 0
- Purdue center A.J. Hammons to return for senior season 0
- Five-star 7-footer Stephen Zimmerman commits to UNLV 4
- College basketball’s eight most important NBA Draft decisions 2
- Updated 2015-2016 College Basketball Way-Too Early Preseason Top 25 8
- 2015 College Basketball Updated Early Entry List 10
- Duke’s Tyus Jones becomes third Blue Devil to enter the NBA Draft 11
- Duke’s Tyus Jones becomes third Blue Devil to enter the NBA Draft (11)
- 2015 College Basketball Updated Early Entry List (10)
- Duke freshman Justise Winslow will enter 2015 NBA Draft (8)
- Updated 2015-2016 College Basketball Way-Too Early Preseason Top 25 (8)
- 6-foot-11 center Antonio Vrankovic commits to Duke (6)