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UCLA Basketball: The New Offense and the 5th Man

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The first reviews are in from the public practice session. Of course, there is news on who is leading the race for the all important point guard position(more on that later). But the most interesting item may be something that CBH has discussed over the last few months and others have mentioned but I don't think enough focus has been given to it:

Howland said the Bruins would showcase a more up-tempo offense in an effort to "really put pressure on the defense and get early looks."

"It's hard to push it on made shots," Howland said, "but we're trying to do that and definitely on missed shots."

Howland said the onus would be on his players, noting, "They have to want to push it. It's hard work to run it every time."

Running after makes is definitely pushing it. Why would CBH chose now to change to a more up tempo style? UCLA has been a defensive force for years and part of that effort has been a sometimes relatively slow (but efficient) offense. Why change now? IMO, two reasons, one positive and one negative.

1. The positive reason. Personnel. Malcolm Lee is a slasher designed for a running game. Tyler Honeycutt is very graceful for his size and very comfortable handling the ball. Reeves Nelson is very good at finishing and running the floor for a forward, let alone a power forward.

As Tyler Honeycutt put it:

Forward Tyler Honeycutt said a faster pace of play suits the Bruins better because they have a bevy of athletic players.

"We have the athletes and everybody can run the floor so it makes it a lot easier," he said. "One through five, all five of us can shoot and bring the ball up the floor. We can change it up in many different ways."

Some may wonder about Josh Smith running the floor. However, the presence of Smith and backup center Stover is also important for this running effort. They are both shot blockers and space eaters. They are the back line in the defense that can allow the other players to pressure and gamble a bit more. CBH said:

On his two centers, Josh Smith and Anthony Stover:
Josh is working on changing ends of the floor. When you get into a game where you’ve got to go up and down and change ends – he’s got to really work at that. I think Anthony has done a nice job for us, especially defensively, and he really runs the floor well. He has the unenviable task of trying to guard Josh when Josh does get to the low block, because he’s just so big and strong. I’ve been pleased with both.

Notice the reason for positive mentions of Stover," he really runs the floor well." Also for what Smith needs to work on. It really looks like this CBH UCLA team is going to be different on offense.

2. The negative reason. It is in doubt how well we will shoot the three ball this year. The loss of Michael Roll is tough here. MR offensive accomplishments were impressive, especially 43% from 3 while he was the number one offensive option. Also, one of the reasons we had a losing record last year was all those bombs, and I do mean bombs, from 3 by Drago last year. I realize that losing Drago is addition by subtraction but anyway you look at it, 3 pointers are an issue. The returning Bruins shot 27%, from 3 which is even worse than Drago's 28%. We loss 74% of our made 3 pointers as well. (Compare this to say FTs where we return 64% of our made FTs.)

With the exception of Carlino, the newcomers do not come with pedigrees saying they will shoot threes well. Take Tyler Lamb, who shot 29.7% from three in high school.

Thus, if you are CSUN playing UCLA this year how do you beat superior athletes who don't shoot well from three? Well on defense, you pack it in and make them beat you outside. We did it last year when we beat PAC 10 Tourney Champ UW short handed at home.

And if you're UCLA how do you beat this ploy? You extend the floor, play pressure defense, and run. Which is exactly what UW did to us the second time they played us and blew us out.

CBH knows this team does not have many outside shooters but does have very good athletes. I for one am excited to see how a great defensive coach like CBH will make this work

The Open PG Position

Well, EARLY signs are looking like what most here thought, Lazeric Jones will be the starting PG. However, CBH is not ready to admit/confirm it quite yet:

If Monday's practice was any indication, Jones will be on the floor when the Bruins open their season against Cal State Northridge on Nov. 12 at Pauley Pavilion. Jones worked with the aforementioned foursome throughout Monday's practice, the only session all season open to the media. . . .

Neither point guard stood out during Monday's practice. Jones worked a five-second call on Anderson with strong defense during one possession. Later, Anderson freed himself of Jones with a screen only to badly miss a shot. But Jones also made a couple of turnovers on bad passes.

[UPDATE: Howland said after the practice that the players wearing white jerseys — Smith, Nelson, Lee, Honeycutt and Jones — were not necessarily his starters, calling them "just what we were working with today." But Lee said that before practice, Howland had said, "starters in white." Lee added: "I’ve noticed we’ve been working in that unit with each other."]

Whoever is PG, it will be a different looking UCLA team, then last year and maybe than any CBH year.