With 2011 slowly fading into the rear-view mirror, it’s a good time to stop and take stock of what has been an unimpressive start to UCLA’s 2011-12 season.
Picked in the preseason as favorites to win the Pac-12, the Bruins stumbled to a 2-5 start, displaying subpar skill and work ethic in almost every aspect of the game. Their defense was slow; their offense labored. UCLA dropped two straight games to open the season against mid-major opposition, and then were shamed on national television during the Maui Invitational.
The dismissal of troubled forward Reeves Nelson combined with a soft set of incoming games proved to be the catalyst for what was once a stagnant Bruin squad. Suddenly, the team was galvanized into action, displaying active defense—man or zone—and an offense with an outside threat.
Now winners of five in a row, UCLA begins conference against the class of the Pac-12 in Stanford and California. That they do it on the road should make little difference, with no true home games on the schedule this year.
If the Bruins should take two from the Bay Area schools, consider them back. If not, prepare for a long winter.
However, before we look to the future, let’s reminisce about the past. Here are the UCLA player grades through 12 games of the 2011-12 campaign.