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NIT Opener Post: Why 2010-11 UCLA Basketball Team Runs

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Overall, so far so good on the new "push it" running Bruins.  UCLA game versus CSUN was just about perfect.   

However, one should never be lulled into thinking that CBH is doing this as a change of heart away from the defense first Ben Ball Warrior.  He is doing it because it fits this team.  Like Coach, who radically changed his style to fit his team's personnel, CBH  is doing it here.  

But one thing this is not for is recruiting.  Let me say it again, CBH is not changing for recruits.  Proof, well take none other than Josh Smith, UCLA's best recruit in this year's class.  Why did Smith chose UCLA?

He also liked Coach Ben Howland's brand of basketball. "A team that plays half-court offense and defense, that fits my style," he said.

So regardless of what you think of the new running Bruins, keep in mind CBH is doing this for this team because it is the best way for them to win.  CBH's NBA record should speak volumes to recruits and it is a record that he is comfortable playing to all who will listen.  So he is yelling "push it" because it fits this team's leaders, one in particular (emphasis mine):

If you look at the players that have played (in the NBA) since I've been the coach, we have a lot of them," Howland said. "In fact, this year we have the most. We have 14 players in the NBA, that's the most of any university in the United States. Nine of those guys played for me. They all seem to be doing really well in the NBA. They're all getting second or third contracts. So if you really want to talk about who is preparing their players really well to play at the next level, I think that we can make a very good argument that our players are very well prepared.

On UCLA's fast-paced style: "I just hope we can continue to do it if we stay healthy. It really helps us. The key to it is having a big that can really run the floor and get down there and be a threat. Reeves (Nelson) really makes the break go because of how hard he runs the floor in transition. I think it's really good for this team because if you get Malcolm (Lee) out ahead and advance out to him on the dribble with Tyler Honeycutt, we've got a couple of guys that can really attack the basket and also make plays for others. It's something that I think will help us. We need to manufacture some easy baskets, either from our defense, creating turnovers, creating off misses and also creating second shots by attacking the glass."

More on UCLA's NIT opener opponent Pepperdine and a brief review of the players seasons thus far, after the jump.

REEVES NELSON

Reeves Nelson is a freak. Not for his tattoos but as a Power Forward that runs the break so well. Listen to two very good former UCLA players talk about him, Don Maclean and Tracy Murray. Don McLean commented on how he catches everything near him. If basketball does not work out for him, I think he would be a good Tight End.

I realize some people belittle Reeves saying he scores in close and by dunks. But they are missing the point. He makes those catches, gets in position for those easy shots, and makes great moves. In the CSUN game Tracy Murray expressed amazement on Reeves ability to control a bad pass for a tip in and catch another one almost under the basket and still dunk it.

Those two Bruins were offensive forces and they are impressed with Reeves ability.  I think we will see Reeves getting more "easy" baskets this year or better put making it look easy.


There are questions about Reeves defense as he seemed to give up at times last year. Hopefully he will continue to answer those questions as he did against CSUN when his man had 1 point and 5 TOs.

TYLER HONEYCUTT


Tyler is the star of this team. In the second two games it was Tyler who pushed the ball down the court. It is Tyler who is going to touch the ball on almost every possession. This does not mean he will always score, just that he is the guy who will make things happen.

Tyler did have 7 TOs against CSUN but keep in mind it was the first "real" game and a blowout. I fully expect Tyler to play more under control, as Tyler said:


Honeycutt had 16 points and six rebounds but was responsible for seven of the Bruins' turnovers.
"A lot of them, I was going for the home run pass and was a little too excited because we had such a big lead," Honeycutt said. "Next game, I'll tone it down a little bit."


MALCOLM LEE

Malcolm is going to benefit from the new style. He is shooting 58% in 2 point FGs. He is seemingly playing under control and it is showing. He has 12 assists with only 3 TOs in the three games so far.

Of course, Malcolm is still struggling from three where he is 2-11. Hopefully that will get better as he will likely be getting some wide open looks.

JOSH SMITH

Smith dives for balls!  A guy that big laying his body out on the floor just has to pump up his teammates as it does the fans. More than anything else about Smith his presence so improves this team. And it will be said often this year he is "so big."  He causes unique problems for the other teams. I am most anxious to see how Smith does against better competition.

The only worry is foul trouble. Smith has to be careful not to reach too much or get dumb fouls. It will be exciting to watch Smith develop this year.

ZEKE

Lazeric Jones was perfect against CSUN after two so-so games. Lazeric took what was given him and did not force things. Lazeric seems like a highly coachable player who will do what is asked of him. One quick example:

Junior guard Lazeric Jones, repeatedly beaten off the dribble during two exhibition games, did a better job staying between his opponent and the basket after getting some advice from Howland.


"Coach was telling me I was getting a little too close [to the opposing player] sometimes," Jones said. "I need to move my feet and stay within the range so I can stay in front of someone."


Here's to hoping Zeke continues to improve and listen.

BRENDAN LANE

Brendan admitted that he was a liability last year in that he was pushed around a lot. That's why all Bruins had to be excited by his highlight reel tomahawk dunk. It was not the dunk itself but it was the fact Brendan ripped the ball away from a CSUN forward that led to the dunk. Lane worked hard in the offseason and gained 20 pounds of muscle. It really showed on that play.

Lane is showing why he is the first off the bench each game. He led in rebounds against CSUN. He was the leader in the first part of the CSLA game when the Bruins started slow with his shooting and passing.

The next test will come when Lane plays against some of the stronger players from the better schools but so far Lane is looking very good.

TYLER LAMB

Tyler looks a little raw at times but also a player that fits in very well to the new running style. Tyler led UCLA in scoring in the second exhibition game and has made some very good finishes near the basket. He is shooting 69% for 2 pointers. He is showing himself to be able backup to Lee and Honeycutt.

His outside shooting is a bit off as he is only 2-10 and hopefully that will improve.

ANTHONY STOVER

Stover is showing why he averaged over 9 blocks a game in high school. He already has 10 blocks in just three games. When Smith goes out, UCLA may improve in shot blocking. He has shown to be fairly mobile as well and fits a running game.


Stover is still raw but all signs are encouraging right now.

JERIME ANDERSON

As Paroclus pointed out, Anderson did not look much different than last year in the CSUN game. In the exhibitions he had trouble on defense as well. While I think Jerime does have a better outside shot than many would give him credit for, I still have some serious doubts about Anderson as a PG. PG is a tough position and we should never forget the last Bruin starting PG to struggle, Cedric Bozeman, went on to be a key member of CBH's first final four team in another position. As Nestor points out, we should not give up on Anderson, but I would still prefer to see him as a 2 guard to help our outside shooting then a true PG.


MATT CARLINO
Matt Carlino has just not played enough to comment on and may be doubtful for tonight's game as he recovers from a concussion.

PRE SEASON NIT GAME 1 v. PEPPERDINE

Pepperdine like CSUN is expected to finish near the bottom of their conference. However, the Waves have one significant advantage over CSUN, experience:


After several seasons with less-than-experienced teams, the 2010-11 roster is finally filled with veterans. Thirteen players are back from last year's team and 14 have previously suited up for the Waves, giving Pepperdine its most returners in school history. . . Only two players that saw minimal playing time are not back from last season, so the Waves return 100 percent of last year's points

The big star on Pepperdine is Keion BellKenion is a scorer, athlete, and a good rebounder:


Named to the NABC All-District second team and All-WCC honorable mention as a sophomore ... Finished second in the WCC and 50th in the nation with 18.5 points per game ... Also in the conference, ranked seventh in steals (1.3), eighth in assists (3.2), 11th in free throw percentage (.750) and 15th in rebounds (5.1)


The other starter to watch is a familiar name, Mychel Thompson, son of the former Laker Center of Mychal Thompson and brother of WSU's Klay who is a good three point shooter:


Named to the All-WCC honorable mention team after averaging 11.8 points as a junior, second on the team ... Also averaged 5.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 0.6 blocks in 31.5 minutes ... Led the team with 48 three-pointers made ... Played in all 31 games and started 27 ... In the WCC, ranked 10th in three-pointers made (1.5), 13th in free throw percentage (74.7%), 14th in blocked shots, 15th in assists, 16th in rebounding and 18th in scoring .

NIT OPENING GAMES SCHEDULING DETAILS

The UCLA v. Pepperdine game is scheduled to start at 8 pm pacific time. Notice, I said scheduled as it is the second game of a doubleheader so the start time is approximate. Win or lose UCLA plays in the second game on Tuesday November 16 at 8:30, again tip time is approximate. The long and short is every preseason NIT Tourney team is guaranteed four games, win or lose.

Although the games keep getting harder, I really feel we should win this one rather easily as well. After last year, it is really nice feeling to have.

Go Bruins!