Bumped from the fanposts. Good thoughts from chrisor on UCLA's ugly win against Stanford. - BN Eds.
One of the good things about watching a game in person (despite the bad seats) is that you can choose where to focus. With all the hype this week about defense, I wanted to watch what the players were doing off-camera.
1) Norman Powell: quiet game, but I watched him off ball and on D. He does the little things, which on this team, is no insignificant feat. An example, which many of us would take for granted, is giving weak side help. He’ll slouch off his man when he is clearly out of the passing lane, and pack the middle, and he is fast enough to rotate back to his man. Sounds simple, but, seriously, no one else will do it. And today, he’s the only one who wasn’t fooled by back cuts. Stanford would have seriously destroyed SM if they were good enough to make the pass. Even Drew was caught by the amateur Princeton move.
Further, on an unathletic team, he is very athletic. He just looks the part.
Powell is caught in a log jam at the wing. Even after SM is gone, Adams is left with Lavine, Freeman and Allen coming in. He gets minutes when Kyle is at the point, but Drew plays 37 minutes a game. I really think he has a shot at the NBA. Defensive 2's are one of the niches in demand. He needs minutes and to develop his offensive game whether it is dribble penetration or a set jumper. I don't think he supplants Adams, but possibly Adams moves down to SM's spot next year (man, if JA could grow an inch or two).
2) SM: I got to give him the 8 defensive rebounds (though 3 were on foul shots). I watched his D closely. I see someone just learning and trying. He’s at the stage where he is told to stick to someone like glue, so that's exactly what he does. He’s not up to the point where he would help in the middle, box out (he's now in the right place for the rebound, not releasing early, but he is not backing is man out of position), or cover the man on the pick and roll. Stanford went out of its way to screen him on and off ball, and back cut him.
3) JA: my favorite, so I say this this with love. I think playing D is tiring him out. He’s not getting back fast enough, but seems to have a nose for the ball, so gets away with it a lot. We are seeing all the steals, as DC has pointed out, but he really is releasing early and not staying with his man enough. It gets worse in the second half.
The guy does manufacture points. 2 games below average scoring games in a row, but he manages to get points at the line (though he missed 4 today) and sneak in for a put back just when we need it.
4) Travis Wear: Like were saying preseason, he’d really make a very fine role player, particularly if we already had a strong interior presence-but we don’t. I see some nice moves. He’s going to the hoop more.
That said, Ben is calling a lot of plays for the Wears directly plus, I think, many times, the team runs though the cycle, the first option or two isn’t there or they shy away from the pass, and then the ball gets to a Wear, and it gets launched. Long way to say they shoot a lot. Either way, Ben enables them. While everyone else has come in for at least a bit of criticism from Ben, not these two- at all.
5) KA: Hats off to him. Some of us, not all, but some of us were saying he should give up the dream of playing the 1, and concentrate on the 4. He's doing that. Did you see that nice offensive rebound where he tucked it in after multiple tips to control it?
He had a few beautiful passes. We haven't seen that in 3 years. In the Cal game we heard Travis say how the brothers presented a match up problem. Hah! With a 4 covering him, Kyle could actually take it to the hole himself with the option of dishing it out. However, this is just too complicated for Howland right now.
6) Drew: He had the dribble penetration all day if he wanted- but he doesn't seem to want it. This goes for almost every defender he's had on him thus far. He has a nice move to the hole if they clear it out for him. I think he's just a passive guy, and probably it pleases Ben not to.
In the thread there were many comments on the slow start. My take is that Ben wants it that way. When when they get a turnover, or SM gets a rebound, they start running, and keep running. Its just a theory, but I still find it hard to believe Ben runs this offense purposely, though he has to give it tacit approval. Was there a mini-mutiny?