UCLA Basketball: 5 Reasons Why the Bruins Keep Losing

Doug Brodess@DougbrodessCorrespondent IDecember 5, 2011

UCLA Basketball: 5 Reasons Why the Bruins Keep Losing

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    UCLA's November struggles are continuing into December as the 2-5 Bruins lost at home to Texas on Saturday, 69-59.

    The only teams that Ben Howland's squad has beaten so far in this season are Chaminade and Pepperdine.

    What looked like a possibly dominant team on paper has turned out to be a dismal disappointment.

    There are lots of problems for one of the most storied programs in college basketball.

    Here are five reasons why the Bruins keep losing.

The Bruins Aren't Getting out to Defend Three-Pointers

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    In their first seven games, UCLA's opponents are shooting 47.1 percent from beyond the arc.

    No individual D-I team is shooting that well from downtown.

    J'Covan Brown (pictured) hit four of eight three-point shots against the Bruins.

    It's hard to beat teams if you allow them to hit nearly 50 percent of their three-pointers.

The Bruins Aren't Controlling the Boards

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    Before the season, if you asked anyone who is even the slightest bit familiar with Pac-12 basketball about this year's UCLA team, they would have most likely talked about how strong the Bruins would be on both the offensive and defensive boards.

    But, the truth is, for all the hype about their size and depth, the Bruins' front line isn't getting it done.

    UCLA is currently averaging 32.3 rebounds per game—No. 290 in the nation.

    Their opponents are averaging 32.7 rebounds per game, which includes the game against Chaminade in which the Bruins won the battle of the boards 49-23.

    No logical reason exists to explain why this team isn't governing the glass.

The Implosion of Reeves Nelson

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    The way Reeves Nelson finished last year, many Bruins fans thought that he would enter the NBA Draft and never play another game for UCLA.

    As a sophomore, Nelson averaged 13.9 points per game and 9.1 rebounds per game, leading the team in both categories.

    His announcement to return created quite a buzz looking toward this season.

    So far, though, Nelson has not played well at all (6.8 PPG and 4.8 RPG) and his on-again, off-again status has become a distraction to the team.

    A player who should be a main contributor has actually held this Bruins team back. 

The Stagnation of Joshua Smith

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    Joshua Smith is a big man (6-foot-10, 300 lbs) who came to campus with some serious hype.

    Smith was one of the top-rated centers in the recruiting class of 2010.

    He had what many considered to be a disappointing freshman year in 2010-11, averaging 10.9 points per game and 6.3 rebounds per game.

    Looking toward 2011-12, Smith was expected to break through with a super sophomore season.

    Instead, Smith is averaging 8.2 points per game and 5.5 rebounds per game while playing four less minutes per game.

    Yes, the Wear twins are eligible and are having solid seasons.  But head coach Ben Howland was hoping to add their production to a robust front line instead of having them cover for an under-performing center like Smith.  

The Erratic Play of Lazeric Jones

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    Senior guards should deliver consistency and stability, but Lazeric Jones' first seven games have been unpredictable.

    In the opening games against Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee, Jones shot a frigid three-for-20 (15 percent) from the floor.

    In the four games since Chaminade, he is making 40 percent of his shots (13-of-32), with his best game of the year coming against Texas (21 points and five rebounds).

    As the team's current leading scorer (11.4 PPG), Jones needs to be more reliable from game to game.

What's Ahead?

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    Nobody would blame Howland if he felt like throwing up his hands and throwing in the towel.

    But Howland is a tough-minded competitor who won't give up on this team or this season.

    The fact that the Bruins are without a true home for this season—because of renovations to Pauley Pavillion—isn't going to change.

    As long as adjustments are made, the next four games of their schedule against Penn, Eastern Washington, Cal-Davis and Cal-Irvine should be wins for the Bruins.

    If not, things could start to unravel quickly for Howland and his team as they head into Pac-12 play.