If Ben Howland makes one change to his most frequent lineup, UCLA will be a much better team.
On the surface, Larry Drew II seems to be a pretty good point guard, as he's third in the nation in assists at 7.8 per game. However, just as was the case when Drew was at UNC, there's a player on the roster who should replace him in the lineup for the Bruins to be at their best.
UCLA's biggest problem is its lack of toughness. The Bruin defense is absolutely terrible, and there's really only one player in the rotation who can deliver the energy and physical nature needed to compete with the nation's top teams.
Norman Powell should be inserted into the starting lineup for Larry Drew II, and Kyle Anderson should move to the point. This would move Shabazz Muhammad to the power forward position, a transition that would make UCLA look a lot like the Tar Heels this season.
Anderson has great vision and point guard instincts. He's able to penetrate into the lane and once he's there, his size allows him to survey the defense and make the best decision. While UCLA needs his team-leading nine rebounds per game, I still think he can make a big impact on the boards from the point guard position. The Bruins would have to get creative with their sets on both ends of the floor, but from the looks on the players' faces, almost any change would be welcomed.
Powell's addition to the lineup would spark the Bruins, much like P.J. Hairston did for Carolina. Before Hairston started playing big minutes, the Tar Heels were tentative and lacked any sign of toughness and aggression. All the players looked lost, and it was obvious that a very important ingredient was missing. This is exactly what I see when I watch UCLA.
Like Hairston at UNC, Powell brings an intensity level that just isn't there for the Bruins at the moment. He plays extremely hard on the defensive end of the floor, and his energy and aggressive mentality would rub off on his teammates. The Bruins aren't having any fun out there right now, and if they want to play past the first weekend of the tournament, Howland better make a change.
If the Bruins continue down this path, they're headed for a disappointing finish to the season. Somehow, UCLA is still in contention for the Pac-12 title, but their “success” is a mirage. The conference is very soft and lacks a top-25 caliber team, and I fully expect any squad that represents it to make a quick exit in the NCAA tournament.
If UCLA wants to be the one that sticks around, it needs to switch the minute distribution for Norman Powell and Larry Drew II.
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