UCLA Basketball: Midseason Report Card for the Bruins
The 2012-13 UCLA basketball season has been one of polar opposites. Glory and defeat. A road win against Arizona and a home loss to crosstown rival USC. It’s been everything it was expected to be at times and light years away at others.
Twenty-two games into the season, the Bruins are 16-6 with a nonconference win against then-No. 7 Missouri and a loss to Cal Poly, and are 6-3 in the Pac-12 (4th) with a recent two-game skid against Arizona State and USC after a four-game winning streak to tip off conference play.
Midway through its Pac-12 schedule, UCLA is a team without a definite identity.
With nine games remaining in their regular season, there’s no telling how the Bruins will perform.
As puzzling as this team has been, here’s where it stands halfway through the Pac-12 season.
Starters: Larry Drew II: B
Senior redshirt point guard Larry Drew II has been a consistent force for UCLA all season long.
While his shooting could still use some improvement, Drew does an excellent job of finding shots for his teammates, which is backed by his seven assists per game and 3.3 assist/turnover ratio in conference play.
Drew would be a much better player for the Bruins if he were able to shoot better, especially from outside (38% FG, 33 % 3P FG in Pac-12), as it would help UCLA spread opposing defenses from shading Shabazz Muhammad.
However, he has nevertheless made his baskets meaningful. Drew is often the Bruins’ go-to player in clutch situations, helping them embark on late-game runs and making crucial shots in the second half.
Starters: Jordan Adams: B
Jordan Adams was surprisingly UCLA’s best player in nonconference play, but he hasn’t been the same player in Pac-12 play.
Now with expectations thrust upon him because of his impressive start as a Bruin with four consecutive 20-plus-point performances, the 6’5” guard has been hit-or-miss in his first nine conference games.
After shooting 50 percent from the field in 13 nonconference games, Adams has shot 38 percent in nine conference games and has only made a total of six three-pointers (6-for-30, 20%).
UCLA relies on Adams for the bulk of its outside shooting and struggles to find rhythm when his stroke isn’t on.
Nevertheless, Adams is an excellent presence on the court for the Bruins. Despite his conference shooting woes, he is a great defender and an extremely hard worker, which is exactly what this team needs down the stretch.
Starters: Kyle Anderson: C+
Freshman guard Kyle Anderson came to Westwood as a highly touted top-five recruit but has yet to live up to the hype.
He has gradually improved as the season has progressed, and his averages of nearly a double-double (9.4 PPG 9 RPG) per game are impressive, but he still hasn’t been quite the player he was advertised to be.
At 6’9”, Anderson can grab rebounds and score some crafty baskets around the hoop and has tremendous court vision, but his nickname, “Slow-Mo,” is unfortunately a suitable description of his defense.
In addition to his lackluster defense, Anderson also takes ambitious, ill-advised shots in key situations in the game when he is the least viable player on the court who should be taking jumpers.
If Anderson can infuse his confidence with wisdom as he continues to acclimate the elevated physicality at the college level, he can become the player that he was hyped to be.
Starters: Shabazz Muhammad: A-
Shabazz Muhammad has been a tremendous offensive asset for UCLA.
Not only does the nation’s No. 1 recruit average a team-high 18 points per game at 47 percent from the field and 43 percent from beyond the arc, but he can also take over a game at will.
As outstanding as Muhammad is on offense, his defense is lacking significantly, and the 6’6” guard/forward has admitted that it’s taking him time to adjust to playing tough D after hardly playing defense in high school.
Nevertheless, Muhammad is a consistent contributor to the Bruins’ offense, scoring in double digits in all but one game in true blue and gold and maintaining an average of 17 points per game in conference play.
Starters: Travis Wear: B+
To the surprise of many, Travis Wear has finally come around.
Not only has his jump shot improved enormously this season but he is also a much more confident player, which may account for his improved shooting.
The turning point for T. Wear was his clutch performance in UCLA’s upset win against then-No. 7 Missouri in which he scored 22 points with nine rebounds, three steals and two blocks.
Ever since that game, Wear has averaged 15 points per game in conference, a stat that would be further inflated had he not been sidelined with a head injury in the Bruins’ game at Arizona.
Although he has improved offensively and has become one of UCLA’s go-to players late in the game, Wear still hasn’t been able to take full advantage of his height at 6’10” and is also stifled by any player that is taller than him.
Nonetheless, his improvement on the offensive end has been remarkable.
UCLA’s bench is shallow, which makes it all the more important that backup guard Norman Powell and backup forwards David Wear and Tony Parker perform while the Bruins’ starters are resting.
And they simply haven’t gotten the job done.
While the trio contributes to the team every now and then, it’s too inconsistent and doesn’t add anything to the game.
Powell, Wear, and Parker merely react to the flow of the game and aren’t able to help the Bruins when they need it the most. When the team had momentum against Arizona, the trio put up 25 points; in the Bruins’ most recent loss to USC, it contributed seven points.
In short, David Wear and Norman Powell are streaky shooters and Tony Parker hasn’t acclimated to the college game yet, which he consistently demonstrates by committing out-of-control fouls.
It’s a hard task to evaluate Coach Ben Howland.
We know there’s a good coach somewhere inside the frantic coach we see waving his arms on the sidelines yelling at his players to get their hands up on defense or screaming “Patience!” when the Bruins are taking the ball up the court.
However, the reality of this season has constantly been thrust upon us. This UCLA team isn’t as good as it was hyped to be.
Of course, Coach Howland is only partially culpable for the woes of this team, but it doesn’t seem like he’s done much to amend the situation. His coaching style doesn’t seem capable of such a task.
Without expanding too much on the complicated relationship between Coach Howland and his players, he simply hasn’t had a substantial positive influence on this team.
Calling timeouts when the Bruins are on a run doesn’t help. Giving Tony Parker limited minutes isn’t a good idea considering that the team will need him to step up if someone is injured. The list goes on…
To his credit, Coach Howland has drawn up good late-game plays; however, that’s unfortunately the extent of his accolades this season.
A “C” is considered average, and that’s exactly what this UCLA team is. Mediocre, ordinary, run-of-the-mill, pedestrian. Average.
This team is one of the biggest conundrums in the program’s history. It simply has no identity.
The Bruins have won big games against Top 10 opponents Missouri and Arizona but have also been defeated by Cal Poly and have lost back-to-back games against Arizona State and USC.
UCLA surely has some “soul-searching” to do, as Coach Howland said after the team’s most recent loss to USC in Pauley Pavilion.
Soul- or identity-searching—whatever it may be—this team has to figure it out fast before its Pac-12 hopes begin to slip away.