Your 2012-13 UCLA Bruins have been largely disappointing thus far.
Despite coming into the 2012-13 season with lofty expectations, UCLA hoops has stumbled out of the gate, narrowly beating the likes of UCI and Georgia while losing almost wire-to-wire against a scrappy Georgetown squad.
Of course, there are only five games in the books, and while this squad has a myriad of talent, you’d imagine that four high-caliber freshman needs time to mesh with its new team under a system its never played in before.
(The process of “meshing” shouldn’t take long and better be all straightened out by the time conference play begins, but I digress.)
UCLA has done a lot of things well, mind you, namely passing the ball to force defenses to rotate faster than they’d like to keep up. Meanwhile, the team’s been getting to the line a ridiculous amount and has seen the emergence of Jordan Adams as a destructive force with the ball in his hands.
But this Bruins team needs a lot to work on and a hell of a lot to improve on. Here are a few things:
- Attack zone defenses with dribble-penetration. The zone defense is quite the cop-out defense and its success is rarely sustainable … unless the opposition is the 2012-13 UCLA team. Zone defenses are generally employed to throw off the opposing offense for a few possessions, save energy, or when the team is entirely out-matched at nearly every position. Good teams figure out how to break it down within a couple minutes, but not UCLA. No, this squad enjoys passing around the perimeter and taking ill-advised shots late in the shot clock. What this squad hasn’t learned is that attacking the zone by slashing and with dribble-penetration often collapses it, forcing defenders to close in on gaps, leaving outside shooters wide open or by forcing bigs to rotate over — once the defense is penetrated entirely — leaving the baseline exposed and allowing for a streaking player to slash and finish off the ball-handlers’ assist. Despite Larry Drew II and Kyle Anderson being competent point guards, neither have done this and it seems as if Ben Howland hasn’t entirely figured out how to beat the zone either. This Bruins team will need to start taking “Zone 101″ in order for the offense to become the unstoppable force it is capable of being.
- Employ the zone a few times a game. For the reasons stated above, the zone defense as a sustainable base defense is ill-fated. But the way this UCLA team runs on offense, it might do Howland good to let his team play zone a few possessions per half to allow his players to rest while confusing the opposition’s offense for a bit.
- Come up with an improved line-up. Yes, we’re still crying and complaining that both Travis and David Wear are receiving most of the minutes at the 4 and 5, a big issue considering the two look entirely sloppy together on the court. Both are solid options at the power forward position and can allow some nice floor spacing with those mid-range jumpers, but neither is a good center and neither can score inside the paint consistently. The Wears are best suited to play the 4 and coupling one of them with either Josh Smith or Tony Parker at the 5 can do wonders, and not just offensively, but defensively, where the Wears have struggled mightily in stopping penetrators from getting to the rim.
- Get better on rotating out to the shooters. The Bruins have done terribly at getting out to defend the three-point line and as a result, opponents are shooting a decent 34 percent from downtown. Indeed, UCLA has allowed the opposition to take a tad over 20 three-pointers a game, indicative of their opponents being left open often. UCLA hasn’t rotated out to the perimeter players fast enough and it has burned these Bruins on countless occasions.
- Smarter perimeter defense. UCLA has allowed the opponents’ guards to slash inside and break down the Bruins’ defense from the interior. This is likely why UCLA can’t rotate out to shooters fast enough, and the guards can then pass around to find the open man whose designated defenders is too far from the ball to make a play. UCLA needs better defense from the likes of Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson and Larry Drew II (and, so far, Shabazz Muhammad) in order to stop guards from taking advantage of the slower bigs inside by taking them out of the paint.
Of course, there are an endless amount of things missing (allowing Kyle Anderson to play his style more often, letting Jordan Adams learn to play off the ball, giving Josh Smith more minutes). These, though, are glaring issues UCLA needs to address because, come time to play decent teams — such as Georgetown — these issues can bit them in their ass.