When you write these often it is hard to get the right tone sometimes. But right now you have to feel really positive about UCLA men's basketball. And it seems CBH is doing all the things that BN asked of him:
Get to the tournament: CHECK
- Recruit a quality PG for the future: CHECK
- Get a "good grade" on the last six games of the regular season: CHECK
- Not embarrass the four letters like football does and basketball did last year: CHECK
As I wrote earlier this is a week where the games are about as pre-determined as you could get. We fought hard against the Washington Huskies but did not have enough to beat their much deeper team when their third-string shooting guard killed us. However, looking to next year, we will add the Wear twins, super athlete Norman Powell, and versatile guard/wing De'End Parker. In a sense "De'End" is the perfect ending to the recruiting class and UCLA will no longer be less deep than Washington.
Oh and what about tonight's game? Well, this game is a big worry for one reason, the let down. The Washington State Cougars are coming apart at the seams right now. Their star and leader in almost every statistical category Klay Thompson, is suspended. Their starting PG, Reggie Moore, turned his ankle Thursday night and is doubtful for the game (ironically Moore was suspended early in the year for a marijuana related incident as well). Oh, and we have beat Washington State for 17 straight years at Pullman.
WSU is looking for its first victory over UCLA at home since February 6, 1993, two days before Klay Thompson turned three years old. In that game WSU defeated the Bruins, 67-56.
More after the jump.
Washington State is fighting for a long shot tournament bid. The Cougars are in a three way tie for fourth in the Pac-10 and desperately needs to beat UCLA. Their crowd may be pumped because of their "gray out" or it may be demoralized because of the suspension of their star. This would be a great game to start quick to take the crowd out of it.
The match-ups are tough because WSU may be starting a whole new backcourt without both their top two leaders in minutes played. But the cupboard is not bare. Faisal Aden is a good player and scorer who lit up UCLA for 19 last time. But Faisal is not a traditional PG as he likes to shoot outside too much. He will almost certainly get the Malcolm Lee treatment. The other likely starting guard is Marcus Capers, the WSU defensive specialist.
UCLA was always going to have an advantage inside this game. It will be interesting what WSU does to make up for the scoring of Thompson. In a sense WSU without two guards may be forced to go "big" more often tonight. DeAngelo Casto is their best big who had a great game against U$C Thursday going 10-11 and scoring 24 points leading WSU to victory. He is a legit force and again the Bruins cannot take him too lightly. Brock Motum and Patrick Simon are two second line players that might play more as again, WSU might be forced to go big.
As far as UCLA, the one troubling thing is Zeek Jones' wrist. The injury report has said this for almost a month:
Lazeric Jones sprained his left wrist in the second half of the Bruins' home win over USC (Feb. 2). He finished the game and was taken for X-Rays immediately after the contest. The X-Rays were negative. He has been playing with a heavily-wrapped wrist ever since.
It is becoming obvious that Jones has trouble going left. Maybe it would be a good time to give him some rest? In any case, it is small reason why I am excited for Parker for next year. If this was next year we could rest Jones as Anderson and Parker could handle the point. Right now, Jones has been forced to play with a dislocated finger and a "heavily-wrapped" wrist, tough for any player let alone a PG.
Kudos to Jones for toughing it out and doing a great job considering you usually need two hands to be a PG. It is also nice that on Thursday that Anderson became the sixth man to lead the Bruins in scoring. Hopefully he will get some extra minutes to rest Jones.
No let downs. WSU is hurting but their back is against the wall. If this was a home game I would call us a lock but on the Pac-10 in the road it is hard to ever say that.