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UCLA Basketball Exhibition Tonight: The New Ben Ball?

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One of the greatest parts of Coach was his ability to change his teams to fit the talent.   His first two championships relied on a pressing defense.  His next three championships used a low post offense.  Coach created one of the most imitated and admired offenses  in the history of basketball but he did not even use it for his first five championships!

Last year, UCLA Basketball had many problems and one of them was CBH was slow to adept to his talent.  The players were simply not good enough athletes to play hard nose M2M CBH style defense.  It took a while for CBH to accept this and go to a zone defense.  Even then he was reluctant to play zone.  For example, the Bruins won their first game in zone in an upset over ASU, but inexplicably CBH went back to M2M and lost to a lesser AZ team in the next game.  At the end despite having the same players minus a good defender in Keefe, he went back to M2M at times at the end of the season.  For example, in our last game last year in the PAC 10  Tournament against PAC 10 regular season champ CAL, CBH went back to M2M during the game and our backup PG got torched.  (Yes we also lost because of another person's offensive offense as well.)  The point here is CBH had to switch to zone and he did BUT it was obvious he did not want to do it. 

So this year he is talking about really changing his style and running more, but does he really mean it?  Some like Nestor think it is a bit of a PR game and more hype since CBH has run in the past.  Nestor may be right and is certainly more right than those comparing us to Westhead's LMU teams, but it may be for another reason.

This team's talent fits a running team.  Tonight is UCLA's first game and our first chance to see if CBH is really changing and how big a change it really is.

First on our talent.  CBH identifies our three best players:

"Like the day before yesterday, our three leading rebounders in practice were Tyler Honeycutt, Reeves Nelson and Malcolm Lee. Those happen to be our three best players. There's a direct correlation, and I can point to it," Howland said. "There's always an accountability every day, in everything that you're doing."

Rebounding, athleticism good.  Shoot threes? Well, these three shot: TH 34%, RN 0 (did not attempt), and ML 25% from three last year.  Yet they are all good athletes and good rebounders who shot, TH 53%, RN 64%, and ML 52% in all there other FG attempts. 

As I wrote before, I think part of the reason for planning on running more is that this team has no outside shooting stars in the mold of MR, DC, AA, JF, etc.   But how important is being able to make the 3 to scoring?   Well as for the 3 pointer as a percentage of FGs made, look at the last the last five years:

2009-10 24% of FGM are 3PM

2008-09 27%

2007-08 21%

2006-07 26%

2005-06 24%

Most consider the best offense team to be the 2007-8 team which had KL, RW, DC, etc.  Yet that team scored the least 3s as a percentage of points.  (Of course it helped to have Kevin Love.)  My point, we can overcome our possible difficulties with three and still be an effective offense. 

But also key to running is rebounding.    Guess which team was the best rebounding?  Yep 2007-8.  Again, I realize Kevin Love is a key in all of this.  But Kevin Love's average rebound per minute was one every 4.2 minutes which is the same as Tyler Honeycutt and slightly worse than Reeves Nelson who had a rebound every 4.1 minutes.   Furthermore, the 2007-8 season's second best rebounder, LRMAM, averaged a rebound every 7.6 minutes.  Thus RN and TH combined were better rebounders per minute than KL and LRMAM.  (Insert joke/bitter comment about Drago missing so many shots, that there were more rebounds available.)  My point is not to compare as much to say this could be a really good UCLA rebounding team.  The icing on the cake the best rebounder in practice this year is Josh Smith:

 And freshman center Joshua Smith has led the team in rebounding during the team's first 15 practice sessions.

Since some of us won't be able to see the game tonight on "UCLA TV," two stats to watch are what % of our points are from 3 and how many rebounds we get.  The first is more important against a team like Westmont as we should dominate the boards.  Are we going to be push it a bit which will lead to more shots, a faster pace and more rebounds but less 3s? 

I for one am interested in seeing how big this change really is. 

Player Notes

Tonight we will get our first look who starts at PG.  CBH has still not declared/decided but many expect Jones to start.  Also, I missed this earlier but here is another clue that Lamb will be the top sub and Carlino may be the tenth man in a nine man rotation:           

Freshman Tyler Lamb said he would back up Honeycutt at small forward in addition to Lee at shooting guard. "If I have to guard a bigger guy, I'll guard him," said Lamb, who at 6-4 is four inches shorter than Honeycutt. "The only thing that changes for me is, when I'm a three I go in and crash the board on offense and when I'm a two I get back" on defense.

And for you fans of Pointless Factiods

Tonight we play Westmont in an exhibition game.  I don't think there needs to be much said on Westmont.  But here is your fact of the game:

UCLA will show off its new look against Westmont, an NAIA team coached by John Moore, the brother-in-law of former Bruins Coach Steve Lavin. The Warriors, who run a Princeton-style offense, opened their exhibition season last week with an 88-68 victory over Cal State Maritime.

And you guessed it, Westmont gets on a plane to play CHP's new team for its next exhibition game.  So I suppose this will be CHP's first chance to compare himself against UCLA and possibly start bsing.  This is just an exhibition, the real game comes later when the new look UCLA better destroy the fraud in chief CHP's St. Johns.      

Go Bruins!