UCLA Basketball: Final Regular-Season Grades for Bruins

Robert Pace@Robert_PaceContributor IIIMarch 12, 2013

UCLA Basketball: Final Regular-Season Grades for Bruins

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    After twists, turns, and upside-down spirals, UCLA has finished its nauseating roller-coaster ride of a season on a high note.

    Somehow, someway, the Bruins managed to top the Pac-12 Conference for the first time since 2008 and nudge their way back into the Top 25 after finishing the season on a 7-2 streak.

    It wasn't the journey that had been anticipated from UCLA, whose stellar recruiting class had the team ranked in the preseason Top 25 and the favorite to win its conference and make a deep run in the NCAA tournament.

    Nevertheless, the Bruins are hot heading into March Madness as they seem to have finally jelled as a team.

    Before the madness possesses us all, let's break down how the Bruins performed this season.

Travis Wear: B+

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    After a mediocre sophomore season, his first as a Bruin, Travis Wear made it clear that he wanted to improve and worked hard in the offseason to make it happen.

    Although his physicality on defense still wasn’t where it should have been for the 6’10” forward, his offensive performance was much improved from the 2011-12 season.

    Wear not only significantly improved his jump shot, finishing with a team-leading 51 percent from the field, but also took his shots with much more confidence, which set the tone for the team.

    The North Carolina transfer was still unable to capitalize on easy tip-ins at the rim and was often too delicate when finishing in transition, but he was a much improved all-around player this season.

    Aligned with the confidence that Wear displayed in his shot was also a previously unexercised ability to perform in the clutch, which was demonstrated in UCLA’s monumental win over then-No. 7 Missouri to wrap up non-conference play.

    Wear unfortunately suffered a string of injuries towards the end of the season, but will likely play a significant role in the Bruins’ postseason activity if he can remain healthy.

Larry Drew II: B+

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    Looking at Larry Drew II’s average point total of 7.3, you might assume that he didn’t have much of an influence on the team, but slide over a couple categories in the stat sheet to his assists total and you’ll be wowed.

    The redshirt senior averaged an astonishing 7.7 assists per game in his first season on the court for UCLA, which ranked him first in the Pac-12 and third in the country in the category.

    Although he suffered his share of shooting woes in the beginning of the season, Drew found a shooting groove when the Bruins needed it most in a key stretch of games towards the end of the season, posting 10 points per game at 49 percent from the field and a stellar 63 percent from beyond the arc.

    The North Carolina transfer’s impact spanned far beyond his facilitation and eventual solid shooting.

    Drew was also a terrific defender, which contributed to his overall leadership of the young Bruins team by leading by example.

    Above all, the 6'2" guard was not only a terrific facilitator but was very careful with his passes, finishing with the second-highest assist-turnover ratio in the nation (3.3) behind Michigan’s Trey Burke.

Jordan Adams: A-

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    Jordan Adams approached the 2012-13 season as UCLA’s lowest-ranked recruit, which wasn’t saying much considering that each of the program’s four recruits were ranked in the Top 50 in their class.

    Nevertheless, the hot-handed shooting guard proved to be the Bruins' best all-around player from Day 1.

    While fellow freshman Shabazz Muhammad remained sidelined due to an NCAA investigation centered on his eligibility, Adams dazzled in his first games on the court in blue and gold, posting four consecutive 20-plus point performances to launch his college career.

    The 6’6” guard quickly became the Bruins' most prominent shooter from the perimeter and established himself as the team’s go-to player in tight late-game situations.

    Unlike his freshmen counterparts, Adams was also not only a tremendous competitor with an unrivaled never-say-die attitude but also played impeccable defense.

    Adams was often the catalyst of a key fast break (which usually culminated with a tomahawk slam from Shabazz Muhammad) due to his quick-handed steals.

    In his freshman season, the Georgia native averaged a team-high 2.2 steals per game, which ranked him No. 3 in the conference in the category.

    His total of 67 steals also placed him at No. 5 on UCLA’s individual season steals list, trailing now-coach Tyus Edney’s steals total in his senior season (74).

Shabazz Muhammad: A-

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    Shabazz Muhammad took a few games to get acclimated to the college game, but after he did, he was just the player he was advertised to be.

    The 6’6” guard-forward not only proved to be the dynamic scorer he was hyped to be, but was also an extremely accurate shooter throughout the season, finishing at 45 percent from the field and 42 percent from three.

    Although his defense leaves plenty to be desired, his determinedness and ability to take over a game at will helped guide UCLA to its first regular-season conference title in five years.

    The nation’s No. 1 recruit brought it to the hardwood every game, putting up double figures in scoring in all but one of the 28 games he played in his freshman season.

    While he only posted a meager 24 assists in his first season as a Bruin, Muhammad posted an impressive 18.3 points per game, which makes him the second-highest scoring freshman behind Don MacLean (18.6 PPG).

Kyle Anderson: B

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    Kyle Anderson proved to be not quite the player he was hyped to be at the beginning of the season.

    However, the nation’s No. 5 recruit came up big for UCLA in a crucial home stretch against the Arizona schools—in which he posted a combined 38 points, 22 rebounds and five blocks—and helped guide the Bruins to victory and a subsequent Pac-12 title.

    Anderson’s nickname, “Slow-Mo,” proved to be both a blessing and a curse.

    On the offensive end, the 6’9” guard somehow managed to carve out a lane to the basket with nifty-yet-deliberate moves and needle-threading passes; however, on the defensive end, his slow feet and lagging physicality proved detrimental to the team.

    Nevertheless, Anderson’s versatility as a backup point guard was vital for the short-staffed Bruins, who suffered a blow to their bench with the early-season transfers of juniors Josh Smith and Tyler Lamb.

    Despite his slow start, Anderson showed tremendous potential for his sophomore season in the concluding games of his freshman season at UCLA.

Tony Parker: C

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    Freshman center Tony Parker had big shoes (and a big jersey, for that matter) to fill in his first season at UCLA.

    The 6’9”, 275-pound physical big man was anticipated to fill in for departed center Josh Smith, but he wasn’t able to successfully acclimate to the college game in his first season as a Bruin and was subsequently used very sparingly off the bench.

    Parker’s physicality proved to be a mixed blessing. His first game in a UCLA uniform was indicative of what was to come for the burly center.

    Playing against Indiana State in his collegiate debut, Parker picked up four fouls in 11 minutes due to his inability to harness his physicality, which was especially true on the defensive end.

    Although he improved in small strides throughout the season, Parker’s playing time was limited for the entire season due to constantly getting himself in foul trouble.

    In his freshman season, Parker averaged a foul for every four minutes he played, which suggests that he would have been fouled out before halftime if he would have started.

    Nevertheless, Parker improved over the course of the season and still reserves the same potential with which he came to Westwood if he can grow as a player.

Norman Powell: B

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    With the influx of three top-recruit guards, Norman Powell was put on the backburner and shorted from the starting position he was lined up for in his sophomore season as UCLA’s 2-guard.

    Nevertheless, Powell was an important role player for the Bruins. While he may not have been recognized as such, the 6’4” guard was often the most important player in a game who shut down opposing guards with his relentless defense.

    Although his jump shot was limited due to the prominence of sharpshooting freshmen Jordan Adams and Shabazz Muhammad (Powell took 155 shots in 659 minutes played this season; 2011-12: 154 shots in 586 minutes), he was still an effective contributor to the Bruins on both ends.

    His influence was epitomized in UCLA’s important victory over Arizona in Pauley Pavilion.

    Powell only scored two points in that game, but they were two of the most emphatic points a player could ever register, as he dunked over an Arizona forward and pumped up his teammates and the sold-out home crowd.

    His personal offensive stats (6.0 PPG 1.1 APG) weren’t very impressive but he contributed much more to UCLA this season with his high-flying dunks and unyielding defense.

David Wear: B-

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    Like twin brother Travis, David Wear exhibited a much-improved jump shot this season.

    However, his physicality didn’t seem to improve at all since his sophomore season, and UCLA often paid the price for it, as it did when he was completely overmatched by Arizona State’s 7’2” forward Jordan Bachynski, who posted career-high numbers on Wear.

    While Wear put up a few surprising performances, including two key performances in the Bruins’ victories over Arizona, his overall performance was generally inconsistent.

    On a team on which Wear was essentially the only forward on the bench, his inconsistency would often hurt the Bruins more than it would on most college basketball teams.

    Nevertheless, Wear proved the immense difference that a year can make for a college player’s development and shows great potential for his senior season at UCLA.

Overall: B

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    It was quite a tumultuous season for this UCLA team, but it nevertheless somehow managed to win the Pac-12 regular-season title.

    The Bruins may have been inconsistent throughout both their non-conference and conference games—falling to both Cal Poly and USC at home but also beating Top 10-ranked teams Missouri and Arizona—but they are nevertheless atop the conference heading into the postseason.

    However, despite their success and increasing improvement throughout the season, UCLA didn’t always play as a team and often paid the price for it.  

    The Bruins seemed to lack team chemistry when they were down and even when they were up sometimes, as demonstrated by a lackluster team celebration after point guard Larry Drew II drained a buzzer-beating fall-away jumper.

    Nevertheless, the Bruins have put themselves in a good position to do damage in the Pac-12 tournament and the nearing NCAA tournament by prevailing above all and finishing first in the Pac-12.