The UCLA basketball team is embarking on their first Pac-12 road trip of the season. After a strong start to conference play, can the Bruins keep up the momentum and get a few wins on the road?
There was a clear difference in the way the UCLA basketball team played in the non-conference (when Steve Alford was in charge) and in Pac-12 play (under Murry Bartow).
Though the Bruins got big wins over bad teams, it gave UCLA fans hope that this squad can actually play good basketball when directed by a competent coach.
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And it is not just the fact that they scored more points, grabbed more rebounds, and increased their field goal percentage, it is the way they did. Bartow has changed the lineup, used a more efficient substitution pattern, held players accountable, upped the tempo, increased the movement on defense… basically, the interim coach has made small tweaks to the existing dynamic which has unearthed some talent with this squad.
Though it has not solved every issue UCLA has (we can blame the thought process that has been ingrained in them by the previous leader), it has the Bruins playing closer to their potential than before.
The question is, can this new direction help the Bruins power through the Pac-12 Conference? Will it allow them to conquer other teams that will be competing for a conference title? Will it bring them together to pull out wins they would otherwise not be favored in?
We will get the answers to that this weekend when the Bruins take their first conference road trip of the season. Tonight, the Bruins head into the harsh atmosphere that is Matthew Knight Arena to face the Oregon Ducks. Two days later they head to Corvallis to face Oregon State, the team that has given the Ducks their first conference loss of the season.
Getting wins in both places will be quite the mission, but it is not out of the question. The Bruins have been able to put together 40 minutes of solid basketball which makes them dangerous and that gives them an advantage as they arguably have the most talented roster in the Pac-12.
With Bartow influencing this team and getting them prepared the way that they should be prepared, this Bruins team can accomplish a lot. They are not going to win a national championship, but they could win their first regular season conference championship since 2013. That is if it all comes together.