Looking Forward

Brian Dohn has a write up on the inconsistencies on UCLA offense. Dohn (who I have a lot of respect for) sort of falls in the line of conventional wisdom trying to look for a simplistic rationale explaining Saturday night’s loss:

As players searched for reasons a second straight appearance in the Final Four ended without a national title, reflections of an unreliable halfcourt offense were seen throughout the somber locker room after Saturday's 76-66 loss to Florida at the Georgia Dome.

"We definitely have to get better offensively," UCLA power forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute said. "We need to execute better, and try to learn how to play motion better. When we play offense, sometimes it looks like there's just one person with the ball and everybody else is standing. We have to learn how to move with the ball."

This is not something new for coach Ben Howland, who rebuilt the Bruins from ruins and took them to a second straight Final Four. But in his four years as UCLA's coach, the offense has remained frustrating to watch, and has yet to find consistency, or explosiveness.
The idea (or implication) that UCLA hasn’t had an consistent and explosive offense because of Howland’s coaching is kind of silly. That assertion doesn’t take into account the factor Howland inherited a team with not a lot of offensive talent and it also doesn’t take into factor that during his first three years at UCLA Howland’s didn’t get his hands on blue chip talents that went to schools like UNC, KU or Duke, because of the dilapidated conditions UCLA program. Howland made do with who he inherited from Lavin and who he was able to recruit in last four years.

Even then despite the common/lazy perception that UCLA offense hasn’t been efficient, it has been working out all right given the talent it has on its roster. Again this team was playing without 3 starters it lost to the NBA this past off-season. Despite having projects such as Mata and AA2 in the middle Bruins had a top-25 offense this past season (23rd ranked offense per Pomeroy ratings).

And I also think the production of our offense was all right given the fact that it was run by a first year starter playing his second year in college ball. Now could our players have executed better playing offense? Sure. They need to get better in executing their game plan. DC alludes to that fact in the same article:
"We need to really sit down and refocus of how we can get better as a team," UCLA point guard Darren Collison said. "There's so many things we can do better offensively, and defensively. We have to have better motion. We have to set better screens. That's something coach has been stressing, and something he will be stressing when the time comes."
As does AA:
"We all need to learn how to move without the ball a little bit better," Afflalo said. "We didn't even run any plays in the second half (against Florida).

"Coach put a lot of trust in us to run motion, which is simply move the ball, pass, screen and do some different things. And when we do drive, we can create for ourselves and others; and at times we became very stagnant in this game.
Now comments from AA after Saturday’s game were pretty interesting. Going into that game I thought for sure AA was gone. But after Saturday night, I am not sure any more. I think AA may genuinely consider coming back next season. From Pucin in the LAT (emphasis mine):
After Saturday's emotional loss, Afflalo seemed certain to consider playing his senior season. Most NBA draft prediction sites have Afflalo as no better than a late first-round pick and most have him in the second round.

The lure of playing with Love next season, of keeping intact a team that didn't have a senior, appeals to Afflalo's deep sense of responsibility.

"I have a lot of respect for my teammates, the coaching staff, the university that's done a lot for me," Afflalo said. "Sometimes you have to make sacrifices for some good things. Coming back next year is something I have to think about. But my sole purpose in coming to UCLA was to win a national championship. I'm still intent on doing that."
As I said before Bruins will be primed to have a very good season next year even if AA doesn’t come back. But if AA does come back we could be in store for something extremely special.

Now for our selfish reasons we all know what we want. But I think we should give this young man all the time (and room) he needs to make up his mind. He has earned it. I don’t think he owes any of us anything. He has already given us so much in restoring the pride and tradition of UCLA hoops. So whatever he decides he is going to have my all out support.

We have a lot to look forward to next season. Our players are going to reflect on what they need to work on this off-season. And I have no doubt under our coach’s guidance and leadership they are going to get that done.

GO BRUINS.
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