Preseason last year we were overrated based on our name and CBH's success the previous four years. This year, preseason we are being consistently underrated by those not in the PAC 10. The latest is ESPN in a blog post yesterday:
UCLA fans aren't accustomed, historically or under Ben Howland, to rebuilding seasons. Given last season's disaster, that's what 2010-11 is going to be.
Let's delve into what he considers the problems (emphasis mine throughout).
Defensively, Howland's typically stout teams gave way to a No. 138-ranked adjusted defensive efficiency last season; the notoriously man-to-man-prone Howland actually resorted to zone for a while there. The bad news: Most of the players from last season's lackluster effort return in 2010-11. The good news? They'll be one year older and -- theoretically, anyway -- one year smarter on the defensive end.
Wrong. most of the players are not back. Take the top five in minutes played last year. The leader in minutes Michael Roll and third in minutes Ragovic are not back. Guess what, they are 2 of the three reasons we had to play zone last year. MR was a great effort guy but could not cover M2M. Ragovic was ah never mind.
The third reason, Jeremie Anderson (fifth in minutes played), is going to have to fight for his position. If he does not up his game on the defensive side, Matt Carlino may even replace him as the backup PG. And by early accounts from people who actually pay attention to the Bruins, Jones looks like a beast on D. Thus either Anderson improves or Jones will step in and I don't think this will be a concern.
The next two in minutes played from last year, Malcolm Lee and Tyler Honeycutt are both good defenders. While it was high school, freshman Josh Smith was a defensive force and Lamb was his team's defensive stopper. Next year will be much improved on D.
Offense after the jump.
Offensively, the Bruins weren't much better, scoring 1.058 adjusted points per possession, good for No. 108 in Division I. There was some good news here, too. The Bruins shot pretty well, posting a team effective field goal percentage of 52.6, the 39th-best mark in the country. Unfortunately, that bit of skill was drowned out by sloppy play everywhere else: UCLA was among the worst teams in the country on the offensive glass (No. 270, to be exact), rarely got to the free throw line (No. 202 in free throw rate) and turned the ball over far too much (21.6 percent of their possessions, good for No. 240 in the country). It doesn't matter how well you shoot when you're that bad at everything else.
Let's take the three problems one at time.
We started five people at Center, all were undersized or out of position. Included in that group was a kid playing on one ankle (Brandon Lane) and Ragovic who all too often was content to sit at the 3 point line and bomb away on offense and on defense was all to ready to go to the three point line on offense. While everyone wants to make Josh Smith the key to next year, the reality is Smith does not even need to score to improve the team, if he plays D and rebounds the team will be much better. Again the returning forwards Reeves Nelson and Tyler Honeycutt were good rebounders.
2. "Rarely got to the free throw line."
Again, this guy did not even do basic research. Our leaders in FTs attempted, Reeves Nelson and Malcolm Lee return. Michael Roll, great shooter that he was, who led the team in minutes rarely got fouled and was sixth on the team in FTs attempted despite playing almost twice as many minutes as Reeves the leader. Moreover, our two leaders in shot attempts, Roll and Ragovic were bad at getting to the FT line since they were in Roll's case a jump shooter and in Ragovic's case, a guy smart teams backed off and begged to shoot outside. Moving ML to Roll's position while hurting our 3 point shooting, will help us get more FTs as ML slashing to the basket style will create even more fouls. Next year the team does not look like a jump shooting team and will draw many more fouls just by the style change.
The bigger concern is can we make those. Ragovic and Roll were the leaders in FT % but again if you are not drawing fouls how much does that help?
3. "turned the ball over far too much"
Yes, point guard U played without a PG last year and it showed. Lee was out of position and Anderson was hurting and had motivational issues. Lee is playing 2 this year and Anderson is not being given the job as he was last year. If the twwl blogger said that he did not think Jones\Carlino\Anderson would be the answer I could understand but again CBH is addressing this problem and won't be caught with one PG as he was when Holiday left. Also, CBH has an awesome record generally on PGs.
All in all, I am cautiously optimistic about next year and would not care about these articles except for the effect on potential recruits. Hopefully, they will listen to the NBA guys praise what people like DC and RW learned at UCLA more than some random twwl blogger.