Skip to content

UCLA has a lot to learn if they are going to be a contender in the Pac-12

Dec 20, 2013, 2:35 AM EDT

source:

NEW YORK — UCLA will be worth the watch every time they take the floor this season.

That’s just what happens when you have as much talent as the Bruins do.

Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams are both going to find themselves in the conversation for being all-americans and first round draft picks by the time the season ends. Whether they will be or not is something that will be determined by how they play and develop, both individually and within the team, over the course of the next four months. But at this point, it’s obvious that their names will be thrown into the mix. That’s just what happens when oneguy averaging more than 20 points and another guy approaches a triple-double on a nightly basis.

And here’s the craziest part: neither Anderson and Adams is the most talented player on the UCLA roster. That title would belong to Zach LaVine, an uber-athletic freshmen that entered Thursday night averaging 13.8 points and shooting 46.5% from three.

Throw the Wear twins, Bryce Alford and Norman Powell into the mix, and this is a group that will run the floor and score a lot of points this season.

Like I said, they’ll be worth the watch every time they take the floor.

But that doesn’t mean that they are going to be able to beat a lot of good teams.

The bottom line is this: The Bruins are a team that has to be able to score in transition to be able to win. They need games to be a track meet to be able to compete, and good teams will be able to slow them down.

The saying goes, it’s easier to slow a game down than it is to speed a game up, and there’s a reason that saying exists. Generally speaking, good basketball teams can do two things well: execute in the half court and defend. The two most effective ways at slowing the pace of a game down? Scoring, which forces teams to take the ball out of bounds instead of running off of a rebound or a turnover, and playing stout defense.

And at this point, when that happens to the Bruins, they struggle. Missouri did it two weeks ago, which is why UCLA was dominated in the second half by the Tigers, and Duke did it on Thursday.

“When pace is taken away, when transition games are taken away by good defensive teams, you’ve got to execute in the half court,” head coach Steve Alford said. “We’ve got to do a better job with that.”

To their credit, this is a young team, one that has a lot of guys learning new roles. Anderson just played his 11th game as a point guard. Tony Parker played less than five minutes per game last season. LaVine is a freshman, as is Alford. Adams is a sophomore coming off of a broken foot. Even Powell is playing more significant minutes than he ever has.

This team will get better with time.

But right now, they aren’t a top 25 team. They are probably a borderline NCAA tournament team considering the only two good teams they’ve played they lost to. UCLA has work to do in Pac-12 play, and they have work to do in practice before they get there.

The Bruins are probably never going to be a good defensive team, which is why Alford is playing more zone than he’s ever played as a coach. That means they need to learn to be able to execute in the half court, and that’s not always an easy thing to do.

“Are we ready for games like this?” Alford said. “I hope we are, but I hope we’re more prepared as we get closer to the end of the season. Games like this help us. ”

Latest Posts
  1. Report: Russell Turner turns down George Mason job, remains UC Irvine coach

    Mar 29, 2015, 10:33 PM EDT

    AP AP

    George Mason had parted ways with Paul Hewitt earlier this month.

  2. Jordan Gathers, nephew of Hank Gathers, transfers to Butler

    Mar 29, 2015, 9:48 PM EDT

    La Salle Explorers v St. Bonaventure Bonnies Getty Images

    The former St. Bonaventure guard had previously completed his Bachelor’s degree.

  3. Michigan State fans celebrated by burning couches, throwing bagels

    Mar 29, 2015, 8:36 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Michigan State knocked of Louisville in the Elite Eight on Sunday.

  4. The Final Four is set, and it’s going to be insane

    Mar 29, 2015, 8:00 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    40-0, Izzo, Coach K, Bo Ryan, Wisconsin-UK, Duke-UK? Let’s get it.

  5. Updated tournament records: Big Ten teams make up half of Final Four

    Mar 29, 2015, 7:15 PM EDT

    Michigan State earned its Final Four spot Sunday (AP Photo) Michigan State earned its Final Four spot Sunday (AP Photo)

    Three one-seeds have made it to the Final Four, with No. 7 Michigan State being the exception.

  6. Duke defeats Gonzaga, heads to first Final Four since 2010

    Mar 29, 2015, 7:10 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Duke is the third No. 1 seed to reach Indianapolis.

  7. Final Four tip times and channel guide

    Mar 29, 2015, 6:25 PM EDT

    Branden Dawson, Travis Trice Branden Dawson, Travis Trice

    We now know who plays when during the Final Four.

  8. Danny Hurley, Rhode Island agree to an extension

    Mar 29, 2015, 6:04 PM EDT

    Dan Hurley AP

    Hurley just completed his third season with the Rams.

  9. No. 7 Michigan State reaches the Final Four for the seventh time under Izzo

    Mar 29, 2015, 5:02 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    This is the first Final Four Michigan State has been to since 2009.

  10. Dave Leitao returns as head coach at DePaul

    Mar 29, 2015, 2:24 PM EDT

    ACC Tournament: Virginia Cavaliers v Boston College Eagles Getty Images

    Dave Leitao is the leading candidate to become the head coach at DePaul for a second time.

  11. Five-star 2015 big man Ivan Rabb hits game-winning free throw to win California state title (VIDEO)

    Mar 29, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpti1yzy1ymy3ytizody1zwrhyzfhmme2odcxyjawntbi AP

    Five-star big man Ivan Rabb makes a clutch free throw to win a California state title.

  12. Wisconsin vs. Kentucky: The Final Four rematch we deserved to see

    Mar 29, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT

    (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Wisconsin and Kentucky get to play again after last season’s thrilling National Semifinal.

  13. No. 2 Arizona, Sean Miller’s quest to reach Final Four once again falls short

    Mar 29, 2015, 8:37 AM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    The label of “best coach yet to reach a Final Four” will remain Miller’s for another offseason, whether that’s fair or not.

  14. Sam Dekker, Frank Kaminsky catch fire as No. 1 Wisconsin beats No. 2 Arizona

    Mar 28, 2015, 8:35 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Dekker scored 20 of his 27 points in the second half at Wisconsin beat Arizona in the Elite Eight for the second straight year.

  15. Frank Kaminsky dances his way to the Final Four (VIDEO)

    Mar 28, 2015, 8:34 PM EDT

    Arizona v Wisconsin Getty Images

    Frank got a little funky after Wisconsin’s win over Arizona.

  16. Rick Barnes is no longer the head coach at Texas

    Mar 28, 2015, 6:05 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Barnes coached at Texas for 17 seasons.