Bumped. GO BRUINS. - BN Eds.
1. Bryce is not a road warrior. In fact, in Pac-12 action, Bryce's performances on the road should have earned him a place on the bench next to Kory. Here are his home and road game stats in the Pac-12 so far:
|Pac-12 Home Games||Pac-12 Road Games|
(MPG = Minutes Per Game, PPG = Points Per Game, FGAPG - Field Goal Attempts Per Game, FGMPG = Field Goals Made Per Game, RPG = Rebounds Per Game, APG = Assists Per Game, TOPG = Turnovers Per Game, A/T = Assist/Turnover Ratio, SPG = Steals Per Game)
In my opinion, it's pretty amazing that Bryce is averaging nearly 20 minutes per road game in spite of his feeble output on offense and his typically dreadful defense. Perhaps Alford continues to give Bryce minutes because he wants to keep Kyle Anderson fresh; however, since Kyle is averaging about 35 minutes per road game, that excuse doesn't fly. Although Alford contends that his son is a top Pac-12 point guard (and is "incredibly steady"), Bryce isn't actually contributing much as a point guard, either on the road or at home. In the Pac-12, Bryce is averaging an unimpressive 2.1 assists per game with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.6, so there's no obvious secondary offensive value provided by having Bryce on the floor. Or maybe Alford feels that his options are limited because he has only 8 players in his rotation, which means that Bryce has to play 20 minutes or so every game. The problem with that logic is that it's circular: Alford has an 8-man rotation by choice because he wanted Bryce to play 20+ minutes per game, so he can't use it as an excuse for playing Bryce 20 minutes a game even when he's shooting a measly 12% from the field.
2. Zach needs to be uncoupled from Bryce. I realize that Alford is locked into the concept of his freshmen "energy" unit, but someone on his staff should tell him that it's a really stupid idea. The fact that it worked in the past does not mean that it will work in the future or that it's okay to overlook all the times it hasn't worked recently. Even if it was working, it wouldn't mean that other substitution patterns wouldn't work a lot better. With both Bryce and Zach struggling for consistency and making some poor decisions with the ball, a good coach would pair each with a veteran player rather than with each other. And considering the fact that Bryce and Zach are the two weakest perimeter defenders, it's pretty dim-witted to think that inserting them into the game as a partnership is a good idea.
Just to illustrate how tightly Zach and Bryce are coupled, consider this from the most recent game against Utah: in the first half, only 13 seconds of Zach's court time wasn't shared with Bryce, and in the second half, Bryce was on the court for all but 1 minute and 14 seconds of Zach's playing time.
It would make a lot more sense to pair LaVine with Adams and Bryce with Powell. As our best defender, Powell is best equipped to make up for Bryce's defensive deficiencies, and Powell and Bryce have complementary offensive skill sets. Of course, a good coach would be considering and experimenting with different player combinations to see what works and what doesn't. Unfortunately Alford doesn't seem to be much of a thinker.
3. The more the Wears change, the more they stay the same. The Wear twins have been a great source of frustration for all of us. Some of us have been highly critical of the lack of defense and rebounding from them, and some of us have praised them for their scoring. Sometimes it appears they are improving (e.g., Travis last year, David early this year), and sometimes it seems they are regressing (e.g., David last year, Travis earlier this year). But the truth is that whatever you think of the Wears' production, they are incredibly consistent. Look at this comparison of the Wears' current season and career stats:
|David Wear Current Season||22.4||7.2||51.1%||50.0%||84.4%||0.6||4.1||0.2||0.8|
|David Wear Career||21.0||7.0||46.7%||41.9%||75.7%||0.6||4.4||0.2||0.6|
|Travis Wear Current Season||21.9||6.4||49.6%||50.0%||100.0%||1.1||3.3||0.8||0.7|
|Travis Wear Career||22.3||8.2||50.2%||43.7%||80.0%||0.6||4.2||0.8||0.6|
(MPG = Minutes Per Game, PPG = Points Per Game, FGAPG - Field Goal Attempts Per Game, FGMPG = Field Goals Made Per Game, RPG = Rebounds Per Game, APG = Assists Per Game, TOPG = Turnovers Per Game, A/T = Assist/Turnover Ratio, BPG = Blocks Per Game, SPG = Steals Per Game)
Not only are the twins remarkably consistent, they are practically the same player statistically, which is one reason why playing them at the same time really doesn't make any sense. Therefore it should come as no surprise that Alford is convinced that playing the Wears at the same time is a marvelous idea.
4. Alford continues to misuse Tony Parker. Pretend for a moment that you're a coach. You have an inexperienced big man who is foul prone. You have two freshman guards that struggle to play sound perimeter defense. Does it seem like a good idea to substitute them into the game at the same time to see what happens?
A good coach would protect Tony Parker by surrounding him by better, more experienced defenders. Parker is averaging a little over 16 minutes per game in conference play and averaging 3.3 fouls per game. When will it occur to Alford that he's not doing Parker or the team any favors by consistently putting Parker into situations where he's much more likely to pick up fouls? Game after game Alford inserts Parker into the middle of a porous 2-3 zone defense and expects good things to happen. Since Alford and his staff don't seem to be working on improving the defensive fundamentals of the freshman guards, Alford should give Parker a break by pairing him with one of the Wear twins in the starting lineup. What are the chances of that happening though?
5. The Bruins need a shot blocker. UCLA ranks ninth in the Pac-12 in blocked shots and ranks 205th nationally. Our leading shot blocker is Kyle Anderson who will never be mistaken for a rim protector. Our zone defense isn't good at stopping penetration, and opposing players don't have second thoughts about attacking the rim since our interior defense is so soft. With Bryce certain to be around for another 3 years, we desperately need a shot blocker to greet the opposition as they come rushing through the turnstile.
6. There is nothing sacred about a 2-3 zone. A zone defense can be incredibly effective with good defenders. It can also be effective with long, quick athletes, even if their individual defensive skills aren't good enough to make them strong defenders in a man defense. Neither of those scenarios apply to the Bruins. To the extent that our zone defense is effective, it's because our opponents haven't been very good at attacking its weaknesses.
Alford is fond of playing a 2-3 zone whenever he brings his "energy" substitutions into the game. One of the problems with this, besides its predictability, is that a 2-3 zone requires a lot of the guards at the top of the zone, which doesn't fit very well with the skills of the players on the court. As long as we're playing a weak zone defense, why not play a different zone defense instead, even if the purpose of it is just to give the opposition a different look? Why not try a 3-2 zone? Let Bryce do his "jumping jacks" defensive routine in the middle of the 3-2, and move Zach and Jordan Adams to either side. It can't be worse than the zone defense Alford is locked into using now, and it might cause a problem for one of the other poorly coached Pac-12 teams. Good coaches are willing to try new things--even gimmicks--if it will help the team win. That said, don't count on seeing any new looks on defense from Alford. He's not the kind of coach to change a plan, or for that matter, to even have a plan B.