UCLA Basketball: 2 More Must Wins and the Harrick Funnel

Achilles teed it up here and I wrote about it here.  The gist are these next two games against Cal and Stanford are must win games and, no not all games are must wins.  As of Monday night in the RPI, we are ranked 64.  We have one very good quality win over #4 in RPI BYU but we have one bad loss to Montana #120 and some other losses that are at least not helpful including VCU at 79, USC at 87.  A win over Cal would be helpful with our RPI as Cal has an RPI of 53, better than ours.    The lowest RPI to make the big dance is usually around 60, with the lowest in 15 years being 74 according to a 2009 ESPN article I found in a quick search.   

But of course RPI is not enough.  A fourth place or lower finish in the PAC 10 is almost certain death as well.  If we win Saturday, on CBS national TV mind you, against Stanford we will be guaranteed a tie for second in the conference going into the next week.  In other words, we will be on our way to accomplishing the Tourney goal.    

So this means these games are real important and must wins for UCLA and CBH.   How does he do it?  Well, taking PeggySue69's approach that the front court is all freshmen and sophomores, they are going to make mistakes, be inconsistent and frustrating at times.   This is no longer going to be a surprise.  I am not sure how CBH can get them to be more consistent right now.

But there is a way he can improve the team, working on the bench or better put: working on the rotations.  Part of UCLA lulls may be the drop off in bench talent and/or being too rigid in the use of starters.  IMHO, he should do a version of what I will call the Jim Harrick funnel.

The Harrick Funnel worked like this.  In the pre-Pac-10 up to 10 guys would regularly play in games.  Now, when I say 10, the 9th and 10th player would usually only play in the first half.  During the Pac-10, the number would drop to 8 with a ninth guy occassionally playing in the first half against a team where fouls may be an issue.  Of those 8, only 7 would likely play in the second half. In other words, Harrick's bench would get smaller and smaller as the season and game went on. 

In the ultimate Harrick season in the championship game despite Edny's injury the bench was really J.R. Henderson only, with Cameron Dollar playing for Edny. 

The Harrick Funnel did not happen in every game obviously but I am using it today for the one of the weaknesses of this team that CBH can control now, the bench.  I wrote at the beginning of the year what a big worry this was and it is looking like an area of major concern. So here is my version of the Harrick funnel applied to this year's Bruins( Note: I consider Smith a starter for this purpose although I have little doubt CBH will continue to bring him off the bench).

9th Man.  Anthony Stover.  Stover plays against teams with really good big men like SUC, AZ, and UW in the first half.  Not as much against other teams.

8th man.  Brendan Lane.  Against teams without good bigs, Lane is a first half player only.  Lane is a good kid but he has troubles on D, has issues on offense, and worse of all is not rebounding well recently.  Lane has had big minutes so far in the Pac-10 but a key to the Oregon game was going small in the second half which meant Lane not playing.  Both Stanford and Cal play 3 guards so it may be a good time to reduce Lane's minutes.  Lane's stats have also been less then stellar in the PAC-10.  But most importantly, I think there is a good argument that Tyler Honeycutt maybe the best backup 4 and Reeves Nelson the best backup 5, the role Lane currently plays. 

7th man.  Tyler Lamb.  CBH has praised Lamb's defense and Lamb is the best defender off the bench.    I think right now UCLA is a better team defensively with Nelson at 5 and/or Honeycutt  at the 4 with TL at 2/3 than Lane playing.  I don't think Honeycutt can handle say Stephenson but against 3 guard teams he may be better off covering an average to good 4.  And yes, I realize both Nelson and Honeycutt have issues with effort but looking at the hand we have I think a strong argument can be made we are better off with them at those positions then Lane or Stover right now.  Take the OR game, while Nelson had a terrible series where he walked down the floor after arguing a no-call with the ref, he was not bad on defense over all as MPLS details.

6th Man.  As I said yesterday Jerime Anderson is the best offense off the bench.  Jerime is not going to create a lot of shots but he is going to make the defense pay for ignoring him.  This is important because the rest of our bench has not shown the ability to keep defenses honest.  Defenses have been ignoring the other three players on our bench.   Jerime also has an impressive 15 assists in 5 PAC 10 games and may be the best post feeder of Smith.  And that is where Jerime could be a real asset.  If teams double off him, he can make them pay like he did against SC and Oregon.  If they play him honest, he can pass.  Note, in this sixth man role I envision him playing is WITH Jones.  

For the second half the backups are as follows: the backup 5 is Nelson, the backup 4 is Honeycutt, the backup 3 is Lee, with Anderson or Lamb playing the 2 depending on whether offense or defense is needed. (Anderson is always the backup 1.)   Lazeric Jones and Joshua Smith are the 1 and 5.  Both Smith and Nelson have conditioning issues in addition to Smith's foul issues. Honeycutt does not have conditioning issues and playing him at 4 keeps our rebounding and interior advantage over most teams. Against a 3 guard team there is no issue with Lee playing the three, plus 6 rebounds against OR go to show he is a decent rebounder.

Regardless of the merits of the Harrick funnel, I think CBH needs to contract a bit and think more in terms of keeping his most effective players on the floor and not be as rigid on positions.

CBH needs to win these next two.   As Achilles said it is do or die time.  Go Bruins.

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