Post KU Reflections

Instead of re-hashing the details of the Kansas loss, it might be time to do a little re-hashing of the state of this year's basketball team at this point, and its prospects for the remainder of the season...

UCLA has faced an array of different types of teams so far this season – from a top 10 national team and a top 20 national team to some average D-1 teams and a couple of very poor ones, so it has provided us a good variety of opponents to get a sense of this UCLA team.  


The Bruins aren't performing well, despite the fact that there is some good talent on this team. KU's Kirk Hinrich said UCLA was the most talented team that KU had faced so far this season, and the Jayhawks have played North Carolina, Oregon, and Florida, three top 25-ranked squads.


So, what's the problem here?  Here are at least a few:


Use of Personnel:  At this point, the way Lavin is using the personnel on the team has been ill-advised an uneffective.  The clearest mis-use here is that clearly the best all-around player on the team, Dijon Thompson, isn't starting. While he's still getting solid minutes, Thompson needs to start, to get him on the floor from the outset.  T.J. Cummings continues to be a drag on the team's performance while Andre Patterson is clearly the best low-post player on the squad.  It would seem that Thompson and Patterson need to play more minutes.  Patterson, against KU, got just about the same amount of time as Cummings, and Thompson got only the third most minutes on the team.  While Ray Young is playing okay, he still has a tendency to go one-on-one too much, and it contributes to how UCLA's offense breaks down when it gets in trouble.  It would probably serve the team more to have Young come off the bench and start Thompson.  It would also, in the long run – that is the long run for the season and the next several years – to let Mike Fey have some of Cummings' minutes.  Fey has a much better chance of paying off later in the season that Cummings does.  UCLA needs to stick primarily with a rotation of its top seven or eight players, and let them get in a groove and build cohesion, and give the right amount of minutes to its most effective players.


Poorly Executed and Impatient Offense:  On the offensive side of the court, UCLA's motion offense is stagnant and inefficient. It looks like a great deal of its inefficiency is due to UCLA's inability and unwillingness to run the motion offense inside.  The offense is limited if it merely rotates the ball around its perimeter and players cut on the wing, without the ball penetrating inside at all.  A big key to helping here would be if UCLA could get the ball to Andre Patterson more often in the block. He is a very effective scorer inside, and showed flashes of it, when he actually got his hands on the ball, in the KU game.  The motion offense should have to go through him. If the ball goes down low, then outside shooting looks will open up. Right now defenses are extending out and shadowing UCLA's shooters, particularly Jason Kapono, and he's so harrassed he's completely out of his shooting rhythm.


Poor Defense:  Both UCLA's man and zone defenses have their drawbacks right now. UCLA has played better defense when it uses its zone since it doesn't have the foot speed or, seemingly, the effort, to be consistently effectively with a man defense for a sustained period of time.  But even the zone has been shredded at times this season. Mostly, it's a matter of effort on defense, and UCLA is lacking it.


Rebounding:  With the personnel UCLA has, there really isn't too much UCLA can do to improve its rebounding. UCLA has seemed to rebound better as a team when it has its tallest players in the game, mostly because it appears that Fey or even Ryan Hollins have the capability of keeping the opposing team's big frontcourt players away from rebounds.  Patterson is the team's best rebounder, and Thompson is probably the second-best.  Kapono is rebounding well, so it might be that, if UCLA can put bodies on the opposing team's big post players, these three could conceivably at least not let UCLA's rebounding lose games. 


Intensity, Aggressiveness and Heart: So far this season, this UCLA team hasn't shown much of it, only in bits and pieces in its first 6 games.  A lot has to do with the fact that the players have generally lost confidence in the program and the coaching staff. When you have players not buying in to the program and not having confidence in the coaching staff, it's hard to get them to play aggressively and with heart for 40 minutes.


Many fans took some positives from UCLA staying with Kansas in the second half and cutting the KU lead. But it's a difficult thing to do. When KU was actually playing hard and aggressively, they opened up a 25-point lead in the first half. And actually, this isn't an outstanding KU team. They're good, but not near as good as some KU teams in the recent past. 


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