UCLA basketball this year is developing in an interesting way. In every game we have an advantage in the front court. Of course this starts with Kevon Looney. Looney is not just one of the best freshman in the PAC 12 but the country. From the official site:
Freshman Kevon Looney ranked seventh in the nation in rebounding (11.3 rpg) through games played Wednesday. The 6-foot-9 forward leads all Pac-12 players in that category and ranking fifth, nationally, in offensive rebounds per game (4.5 offensive rpg). Looney leads all freshmen in the nation with five double-doubles (in eight games). He has scored in double figures in all eight contests and ranks third on the team with 13.6 points per game.
Not since another KL has UCLA had such a force on the boards. Kevon is truly a star and it is worth noting that the time Kevon is on the floor we were even beating North Carolina in the blowout loss. Kevon is a legitimate UCLA star.
While people across the country are beginning to notice Kevon, a lot of UCLA fans have not noticed the continued improvement of the other half of the backcourt, Tony Parker. Again from the official site:
Junior Tony Parker has averaged 11.3 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, having made significant strides in each of three seasons. After having logged 6.3 minutes per game as a freshman (2012-13), he finished his sophomore year (2013-14) with 6.9 points and 4.4 points in 17.2 minutes per game. He started UCLA's first nine games last season while Travis Wear recovered from an appendectomy and has started all eight games this season. Parker, who hails from Atlanta, Ga., scored 12 points and added nine rebounds Wednesday against Cal State Fullerton.
Last time out in that Fullerton game UCLA jumped to a 15-4 lead to effectively erase any thoughts of winning by CSF. They did with Looney and Parker leading the way. In the first 5:34 Looney 3-4, 2-2 from the Free Throw Line, 3 Rebounds, 2 Blocks. Parker was 3-3, with 2 rebounds. CSF like most teams did not have an answer to those two.
Then the bench came in and UCLA was outscored 5-8 with no points inside with more turnovers than baskets until Parker returned almost 6 minutes later. With Looney and Parker on the court, UCLA has a huge advantage inside and needs to exploit it.
A similar thing happen in the Coastal Carolina game which was a 2 point game at half. UCLA came out of the second half and pounded the ball into Tony Parker who responded by going 2-3 from the field, 1-2 from the free throw line with 2 rebounds while Looney went 2-3, from the field, 5-5 from the Free Throw line, 1 assist, 6 rebounds. UCLA had a 17 point lead when Looney sat and the game was over.
Tomorrow against San Diego is no different, San Diego ranks a pathetic 274th in the nation in rebounding. Although San Diego does have a decent defensive center in Jito Kok. (Kok is from the Netherlands, odds on Bill Walton talking about Swen Nater are high.) Kok has set school records in block shots and is averaging 3 a game right now but that is all Kok really does is block shots. Kok is fourth on the team in rebounding (out rebounded by a six foot guard) and is only shooting 40% from the floor despite only playing inside and not shooting threes.
While it will be interesting to see how Parker does against Kok, San Diego has no match up for Looney. The starting four, Tomas Jacobs, is the team's leading rebounder but he is only listed as 6'6" and will be way over-matched against Looney.
Once again UCLA will have a huge advantage inside. Will UCLA use it consistently or just enough to win?
The backcourt is a different story. 6'0" Senior shooting guard Johnny Dee led the NCAA in free throw shooting last season. He is also deadly from three (46%) as well shooting 9 times a game from there. He holds USD records from three and is averaging 20 points a game. He is the kind of guy who can really burn a loose zone.
The point guard 5'7" Christian Anderson is also a USD record holder in points and steals. He is averaging 8.5 assists a game this season for a team that only scores 68 points a game. Anderson is also the second leading scorer.
6'6" Brett Bailey is the nondescript other starting forward but more minutes are given to Duda Sanadze a 6'5" swing who has been a scoring threat in the past.
But really what this game comes down to is UCLA can dominate the Boards and win by going inside. While San Diego does have a shot blocker, they have no answer for Looney. Will UCLA be disciplined and play through Looney and Parker? Or will they make it a battle of the backcourts, where USD is actually pretty good for a WCC team.