UCLA Hoops Roundup: (Almost) Worst to First

No, we're not delusional enough to tag that description to this year's UCLA team. This refers to our opponents, going from the Pac-11 (excluding Division II-level USC) cellar dwelling Utah to the surprise of the conference season: the tied-for-first-place Colorado Buffaloes.

After a spectacular night full of exhilarating one-sided romps in the Pac-12, the reviews coming in on our own blowout are predictably bland and pedestrian.

Joshua Smith scored 14 points, while Jerime Anderson and David Wear both scored 13. UCLA shot 58.7% in what amounted to a extra practice session before its game Saturday against Colorado, which is in a four-way tie for first place.

"This was a real confidence booster for us," Wear said.

The Utes have been a care package in high-tops for much of the season. They have been pummeled by Colorado (73-33) and California (81-45). The Bruins joined that crowd, taking control of the game with a 14-4 run that gave them a 36-21 lead at halftime.

Also as expected, we're hearing the same old hints about turning the corner, particularly in regards to a certain center:

"Josh was a difference-maker for us tonight," Howland said. "He was very motivated after last weekend."

Motivation? Or having a 100 lb and 4 inch height advantage on your defenders? We've been fooled once by this mirage. No longer. I want to see what this guy does when the competition level goes up.

We'll keep the Utah part of this short to avoid giving me a headache, and turn our attention to CU. Coming in at 14-6 and 6-2 in conference, the Buffs would appear to be that step up in competition. They're tied for first with Cal, Oregon, and Washington after stomping the Trogans last night, but even then there are red flags galore for CU:

Roberson had 13 points and 10 rebounds and Carlon Brown scored 13 with nine rebounds for the Buffaloes (14-6, 6-2), who used a 23-4 run spanning both halves in winning their first Pac-12 road game.

Like us, the Buffs got swept on the Bay Area road trip and hadn't played a road game since, but there are other indications that CU may not be all that their record indicates. Believe it or not, UCLA actually ranks higher in KenPom's rankings and by RPI they're actually the second best team in Colorado behind Colorado St.

Obviously the Bruins will also have things to worry about. CU comes to the table with a balanced scoring attack with four players averaging in double figures including Howland recruiting miss, freshman point guard Spencer Dinwiddie. CU also has no players averaging over 30 minutes per game. There's also this from last night against the size and talent challenged Trogans:

The Buffaloes took advantage of the void in the middle, getting a steady number of uncontested shots in the paint against the "deflated" Trojans, as Boyle put it.

...

Booker and Dinwiddie each had nine rebounds for the Buffaloes, who held a 51-24 edge on the boards.

If UCLA was hoping that CU would pull a page out of the Utah playbook and hoist up terrible shots and pray for rain, it doesn't look promising. They saw where the Trogans were weak and went after them. Normally, we should be encouraged by this plan of attack. Guards and forwards trying to go up against the size we have that the Trogans lack should be a clear advantage in our favor. However, with the slow footed Josh Smith anchoring a defense surrounded by the Wears who don't always play like they're 6'10", I could see this game also turning into a lop sided affair on the glass if the Bruins don't buckle down and commit to securing rebounds. One would also hope that Anthony Stover would see a lot of time to negate shots on the inside paired with Norman Powell to at least give us a fighting chance at keeping their guards out of the paint. Given what has transpired this season, does anyone have any faith that it's actually going to happen?

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