UCLA is off to a perfect start through five games. Although none of the victories came as a surprise given the overall ease of the Bruins' schedule in the early going, the fact they are playing very well right out of the gate should be enough to excite the diehard fanbase.
The Bruins entered last season with a lot of hype. They brought in a tremendous recruiting class and instant success was expected, mostly because teams like Kentucky have used that formula to win titles. Instead, UCLA got knocked out of the tournament in the round of 64.
Shabazz Muhammad headed for the NBA, but the rest of that marquee recruiting class remains. Jordan Adams and Co. have been surrounded by a solid supporting cast and the early results are promising.
Let's check out some things the Bruins must do to build off that success.
Keep Emphasis on Ball Movement
One thing Steve Alford has already been able to do since arriving from New Mexico is get a very talented group of individuals to play as a team. A consistent problem last season was too much one-on-one isolation play, leading to extended offensive droughts.
Kyle Anderson is running the offense with terrific efficiency. He's averaging nearly eight assists per contest while turning it over just twice. Those are the type of numbers that can allow a team to compete with top opponents when the time comes because the team doesn't beat itself.
Furthermore, when Anderson dishes out that first pass, the recipient isn't always jacking up a quick jumper or trying to make an individual play. They keep moving the ball around the opening passing lanes, which has opened up easier buckets and led to a much more complete offense.
Attack the Rim Early and Often
Perhaps the most intriguing thing about the UCLA roster is the high number of very athletic players. Led by Adams and Anderson, the Bruins are built perfectly to take advantage of the NCAA's attempt to increase scoring by calling more touch and reach-in fouls.
How far will UCLA go this season?
Although only time will tell if the referees are calling games as strictly in the latter stages, the Bruins should be taking advantage of it. Any time a player has a lane to the paint, he should attack it aggressively trying to draw the foul.
If teams want to play physical defense, they are going to find themselves in foul trouble quickly. If they don't, UCLA is going to get a lot of free points around the rim. It's a win-win situation and Alford's group is built perfectly to utilize that edge.
Let Jordan Adams Work His Magic
Playing strong team basketball is the easiest path to success at any level of basketball. Ball movement, strong defense and hustle plays are the foundation for success. Yet, great teams almost always have that one player they can count on in crucial moments.
For UCLA, Adams is that player. He had a solid freshman campaign, but his play so far as a sophomore is on a different level. He's more efficient and reading the floor better, which has allowed him to become that key player on both ends of the floor.
He's averaging 22 points, nearly five rebounds, three steals and two assists while shooting 56 percent from the floor, including 46 percent from beyond the arc. When they need a big play, get him the ball and more often than not he's going to push the Bruins over the top.