First Exhibition Observations

We provide some thoughts and player evaluations after the first exhibition game of the season...

UCLA's first exhibition of the season provided a glimpse of what the new Alford Bruins will try to accomplish both offensively and defensively. Our observations, obviously, are limited to just the one game, and that game came without potential contributors Travis Wear and Wanaah Bail, which likely forced Coach Alford into combinations and lineups that he would have preferred not to use.

With the injuries to Wear and Bail, and then subsequent foul trouble for Kyle Anderson, UCLA was forced to zone a bit more than Alford would have liked, as he talked about after the game, but, generally, UCLA's defense played much better in zone than in man. Through the first half, when UCLA went primarily man, the Bruins played poor help defense and, aside from Norman Powell, struggled to stay in front of the San Bernardino guards. When the team went with a zone, which was a very active zone that seemed to utilize significant man elements, the defense was much better.

Offensively, the system appears much looser than Ben Howland's offense, even last year's version. At least last night, there was much more freedom to create off the dribble and use one-on-one situations to a player's advantage, which seemed to help Powell in particular. On the other hand, the system, at least last night, didn't seem to play to the strengths of Kyle Anderson, who had some struggles taking his man off the dribble.

In terms of player evaluations, Zach LaVine might have been the most impressive player on the court, just in terms of the obvious upside. With his level of athleticism, you can see that he'll only get better the more minutes he gets. Jordan Adams also looked good, and looks pretty similar body-wise to where he was last year. He took a few contested shots, as did LaVine, but overall was very efficient. Anderson struggled at times, but once again showed why he's probably UCLA's best rebounder. David Wear looked about the same as last year.

Bryce Alford, who played 24 minutes after Anderson got into foul trouble, has some work to do defensively, and had some issues staying in front of his man. Offensively, he made some nice plays and some poor plays, but there's really not much to go on at this point in the season. He does appear to be getting all of the backup point guard minutes, at least at this stage.

Tony Parker, who started at center in Travis Wear's absence, showed some of the same struggles as last year, particularly with his footwork. He was called for traveling a couple of times, and could have been called a few more times. On defense, he was pulled away from the basket and didn't show a great feel for playing in space, not that you'd expect him to. With the lack of bigs on the roster, it's going to be very important for Parker to play considerable minutes, so you have to hope that he shows considerably more in the next few games.

It's just one exhibition, so it's difficult to draw too many conclusions. Right now, just based on this game, you'd say the big issue for the team (and coaches) will be defense. If the coaches opt primarily for a man system, you could see some struggles, given the lack of real athleticism at many key spots on the court. The zone defense, though, looked like it had a chance to be good, and we'd be interested to see how it would look with more time and energy devoted to it throughout the season. Assistant coach Ed Schilling earned a reputation in Indiana high school basketball circles for the quality and complexity of his zone defenses, so it'll be interesting if, at least for one year, Alford thinks about using more zone than he might be used to.

Note: Freshman forward Wanaah Bail has just been cleared for running. Next would probably be non-contact practice, then contact practice and completely cleared. So, he could still be a couple of weeks away.

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