Knowing the weaknesses of the past can help a team improve on the future. No, that is not a famous philosophical statement or part of the Pyramid of Success, it is basically what UCLA basketball needs to do during the 2015-16 season as they look to get back to elite status in college basketball.
The Bruins had a good run towards the end of last season as they found some much needed chemistry. Looking ahead, the Bruins should be able to continue that chemistry with a solid core which will be surrounded a good supporting cast which includes many recruits and transfers coming in the fall.
Go To The Core Of UCLABasketball
Mar 27, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; UCLA Bruins guard Isaac Hamilton (10) shoots against Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Kevin Pangos (4) during the second half in the semifinals of the south regional of the 2015 NCAA Tournament at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Isaac Hamilton, Bryce Alford and Tony Parker are going to be THE guys next season, there is no doubt about that. The sophomore, junior and senior know the system and will be much improved in 2015-16. Hamilton and Alford, who may still take on point guard duties, are excellent shooters and should utilize that at the 2 position. They should also, take less contested three-pointers.
Parker has improved every year he has been at UCLA. Now facing his senior season, he looks to be a leader and Big Man Numero Uno. The good news is that he will have some talent around him with sophomore 7-footer Thomas Welsh looking to improve on a decent freshman season. Not only that, but former 4-star forward Jonah Bolden will be eligible to play after having to sit out a year.
The back court will also have some talent coming in, which brings us to our next point…
Improve Roster Management
UCLA Basketball will finally have depth and with that we say, “USE IT!” You cannot fault the Bruins for being very thin last season. Before it even started, they lost Jonathan Octeus because he was denied admission and Bolden due to eligibility issues. At the end of December they also lost Wanaah Bail for academic reasons and then he decided to transfer after the season was over, so by the end of the season, the Bruins only had eight scholarship players available.
Now, head coach Steve Alford and UCLA are stacked. Aside from the aforementioned Welsh and Bolden in the front court, UCLA will also have Gyorgy Goloman, junior college transfer Ikenna Okwarabizie and 3-star commit Alex Olesinski. Needless to say, Alford has a good problem with all these big men.
As for the back court, the Bruins get two very good players in 4-star point guard Aaron Holiday and 4-star point guard Prince Ali. What this is, Ladies and Gentlemen, is reloading. So now that the team is filled up, UCLA needs to utilize all of their weapons and spread the time on the court.
Last year, UCLA’s starters accounted for nearly 80% of minutes played by the entire team. That has to change and should be no excuse for giving any player more time than they deserve. Give the ball to someone else, will you?
Defense! Clap Clap!!
Mar 1, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Washington State Cougars guard DaVonte Lacy (25) and UCLA Bruins forward Tony Parker (23) go for a loose ball in the first half of the game at Pauley Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
UCLA basketball needs to improve their defensive presence from the start of the season. Last year they were 219th in the nation in points allowed (68.1 ppg). The Bruins have showed that they can have a solid defense, especially in the NCAA Tournament. The things is that they were not consistent defensively, which allowed teams to get back into games.
They need to make stopping the ball a priority. Though it is fine for an offensive-minded player to be more active on their own side of the court, head coach Steve Alford needs to have all of his players play some defense (not going to name names).
The “Matador Defense” which was comedically named by several Bruin fans on Twitter (where defenders of opposing players are allow to effortlessly drive to the basket) puts pressure on the interior defense to try to stop it. But what if they draw a defensive foul or kick the ball to the outside? See? It creates many problems that could have easily fixed with some fundamental defense.
These changes are not hard which is why they need to be the focus going into the season which begins in only six short months, If UCLA basketball is serious about getting back to elite status, the work needs to be done now.