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UCLA Basketball: Week 3 Hoops Q&A -- Post-B4A Edition

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The B4A is over. The Bruins went 1-2. After 3 cupcakes, the Bruins go into another tough stretch with Kentucky, Gonzaga and Alabama. What are the takeaways from the Bahamas trip?

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1) What, if anything do you make, of Bryce Alford ranking twelfth in the nation in assists and Kevon Looney ranking 9th in the nation in rebounds (both second in PAC 12) at the end of last week?

DCBruins:  Bryce seemed to fall off a bit against better teams so his ranking may be hard to maintain over the course of a season.  (It will hopefully go up with the next three cupcakes.)  It may be more a product of the cupcakes.  That said, I think the team is better when Bryce passes first.  On the other hand, Kevon is amazing and I think his numbers went down the last two games in the Battle for Atlantis because he was tired.  He almost single handedly willed us to victory against Oklahoma.  He has a legitimate shot to lead the PAC 12 in rebounding and be among the top in country.  He looks to be even better than Kevin Love on the offensive boards.  It will be fun to watch Kevon rack up the double doubles this year.

chrissorr: Bryce's numbers are inflated by the cupcakes, although Coastal Carolina and Long Beach State both have good guards. I hope he plays within his capabilities and in the team concept.

Being the coach's son combined with being the point guard and the top scorer is a very precarious mix. I'm not sure, but for now I think he felt he needed to score when there was no other offense.

The others actually have to get the ball in the hoops to get an assist recorded, so that alone, in the conference, might hold his numbers down. In a best case scenario, the other team focuses on him defensively to prevent his 3, and that opens it up for the others, and they execute.

I believe Kevon Looney is going to be the best rebounder on the court no matter who they play (one exception - Kentucky. Whether Towns, Stein or Poythress is a better rebounder, I don't know, but they have too many bodies). If teams double him underneath, I hope Tony benefits, and actually executes.

2) Who is your sixth man now?

chrissorr: Bail let us down - again! I still say Noah for now because the 3 slot is the one that is open. Alford looked to be experimenting more against UAB by putting in Welsh then Golomon first. At least Golomon looks like he's played basketball before though he is rail thin. I posted before, there's not much to lose at his point by going big. Maybe Welsh or Golomon get the most minutes playing in a two-guard lineup.

DCBruins:  Goloman was the pleasant surprise of the B4A.  That said he was not great just competent.  Bail is a great athlete but not a basketball player.  Hopefully he will be ready to contribute next season.  The potential is there.  Allen looks nervous on the court.  It is also hard to find a position for him.  He is forced to play guard when he is really a three or undersized four.  For the next three games, I would give Allen and Goloman more minutes to see how they play and decide the battle for sixth man.  I would move Bail to ninth man.  Welsh will get 15 minutes a game for Parker at 5 but I am not ready for a Welsh and Parker lineup.

3) The Battle for Atlantis was probably the toughest preseason tournament in the country this year.  UCLA has now scheduled a home and home with Kentucky.  Steve Alford seems committed to playing a tough schedule with a few cupcakes thrown in.  What are your thoughts on this?

DCBruins:   I give Steve Alford a lot of credit for demanding UCLA play tougher games versus the weak preseason schedule Howland preferred.   I think it is always good to start the season with poor then middling teams as we did this year.  I also think it is good to play some potential resume builders such as the battle for Atlantis.  I think Alford has done a good job on scheduling with one exception.  I would never play Gonzaga.  I don't want to play a west coast power outside the PAC 12.  It can give them a showcase in the west and an opportunity to recruit over us.

chrissorr: I think it's great. They are also in Maui next year. I think it's been proven that early losses to great teams don't hurt so much. At some point, you have to win some of these, and those bad losses to teams you shout beat or are even with really hurt in many ways: resume and morale.

I like the home-and-home best because you have to give the Pauley fans something. It's been bad for so long now. Winning is the most important thing, but bringing great teams to Pauley helps the program.

If we never played Gonzaga or San Diego State, I wouldn't complain, but I'm OK with it. Kentucky eventually played Louisville. I'm still going with the theme of bringing great teams to Pauley though packing Pauley with SDST fans would suck if they eventually get scheduled.

It's one small piece in the recruiting puzzle. We don't have that many recruits in common (Josh Perkins is one), although we probably should if we would go more local. Those teams don't compete for Rabb, Zimmerman and the others.

4) We saw signs of dissension in the second half of the UNC game. Then Alford took his team for a walk around the grounds reminiscent of the party at his crib before last year's PAC-12 tourney. Is an implosion imminent?

chrissorr:  It's possible. In fact, the team might be too quiet to have a full-on mutiny - Norman Powell seemed to ignore Bryce's words on the court. We talked about this preseason - the road trip to Colorado/Utah could be another tipping point (I may be incorrectly assuming that they'll take monster losses to Kentucky and Gonzaga in stride).

Bryce showed some awareness in preseason interviews (acknowledging that he might not start).  He certainly slipped in the B4A in this regard. As the coach's son with the spotlight on him for both on and off-court issues, he needs to strictly stay within his and the team's limits - he's has to go above and beyond. The father put everyone in a bad situation (including us the fans and alums). They both need to be extremely sensitive. Not sure it's happening sufficiently.

DCBruins: The most important game of the year may be the road game against Alabama on December 28.  It will be post-Christmas, post two likely losses against Gonzaga and Kentucky, and the last game before the PAC 12.  If we lose on the road against Alabama, especially if it is ugly, we could in big trouble for our first road trip in the PAC 12 to Utah and Colorado, the two other teams in competition for second place in the PAC 12.  If we look bad (Bryce and Norman forcing shots), we could end up in a skid that will be hard to pull out of for the PAC 12.  I am not sure a walk around or party will help overcome this.  (However, Alford has done a good job coming back from ugly games in the past.)  On the other hand if we win at home against Gonzaga or pull out a road win against Alabama, we can probably survive mentally regardless of what happens those first PAC 12 games.

5) Any final thoughts on the B4A?

chrissorr: The best team did ultimately win. I do like Wisconsin and Florida's recruiting models: finding under radar guys who stay for four years. It's probably not us since we are located in SoCal, and should get high profile recruits.

The Oklahoma game was all-important for me. They could have gone 1-2 with just that win, and it would look better to the Selection Committee.

It was important to get away from Pauley.  Now it's all home games except Alabama.

Next year is Maui with Kansas, Indiana, UNLV, St. John's, Wake Forest, Vanderbilt and Chaminade.  Nothing to sneeze at - plus Kentucky and Gonzaga again.

DCBruins: We learned a lot about the team.  Good: Kevon Looney is a top player in the country. Combined with Parker and Welsh, we have a strong front court advantage against most teams we play.  Kevon Looney was positive in the plus/minus in the losses in the Battle for Atlantis.  Bad: Our bench and related issues are really bringing us down.  You have to think the odds of UCLA winning the PAC 12 tournament are slim with this bench.  Foul trouble is also a problem. While we have an alternative for Parker if he gets in foul trouble, there is no real way to replace Kevon or Norman.  Also, the North Carolina game was scary as Bryce and Norman started to really force things and just put their heads down and shoot.  If we lose a number of games like described above, this may happen again.