UCLA's Kevon Looney (facial injury) will be a game time decision for tonight's game against Arizona, Steve Alford told @CBSSports.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) March 13, 2015
Coming into this season, we knew that a potential injury would be a huge obstacle to overcome. The roster issues led to this team being heavily reliant on the starters playing big minutes. 4 of the 5 starters average over 30 minutes per game, with only Parker coming in under that number. Now, at probably the worst time of year, Steve Alford may need to find a way to win without one of his key players. After dropping winnable games on the road at Colorado, California, and Arizona State, the Bruins need a win against Arizona to lock in a trip to March Madness. While the they may still backdoor their way in with a loss, the team simply cannot count on that if they want to avoid a trip to the NIT. Here we will look at Steve Alford's options if Looney doesn't play.
What We Need to Replace
Looney has been a force on the boards this season, leading the team with over 9 rebounds per game. He has also been steady contributor on the offensive end, scoring in double figures in 23 of the 31 games coming into the Pac-12 tournament. Against Arizona, his quickness around the basket is the reason that Sean Miller was forced to pull Dusan Ristic from the game, despite Ristic scoring 12 points in just 11 minutes. Looney is also the only player with the physicality to consistently defend Brandon Ashley, a true 4 which is rare in the college game.
(Listed in order of likeliness)
1. Start Gyorgy Goloman. GG has been primary backup 4 this season. While GG does show a natural knack for passing, he has struggled greatly on the boards. He is rebounding at less than half the rate of Looney (12.1 rebs/40 vs 5.6 rebs/40), roughly on par with Norman Powell. That will hurt us against the #1 rebounding team in the conference. He has shown the ability to stretch the floor with a smooth outside stroke, which would help open space for Tony Parker, in order to win, we would need to see both GG and Parker have huge rebounding days.
2. Start Thomas Welsh. Many people were fascinated by the twin tower lineup idea early in the season, but inability of either Welsh or Parker to guard the 4 has prevented that from happening. This lineup would require the team to give up some ting, but it would also give the team the best opportunity to compete on the boards. Welsh is the 3rd best rebounder on the team, averaging 9.3 rebs/40. While the would be our best rebounding lineup, the team would struggle on the defensive end. We would likely need to sit in a tight zone and give up the outside. A 2-3 zone featuring GG, Welsh and Parker with GG at the top of the key could provide a new look for Arizona though.
3. Start Noah Allen. This idea honestly intrigues me the most. Allen rebounds at about the same rate that GG does, and is likely our best defender off the bench. He has had his struggles on the offensive end, but he is a good passer and the matchup against an Arizona 4 would give him a quickness advantage he could potentially exploit. Allen would also probably have the most luck guarding Ashley over the course of the game, even if he does give up some size. Notre Dame has been running with a lineup similar to this with great success in the ACC. I am not sure that Steve Alford will go this far outside of the box, but it is absolutely worth looking at.
Obviously none of these lineups would be as effective as Looney being able to play, so hopefully we hear that Looney will be cleared to play. If not, we will see what type of backup plan Steve Alford has in place.
Chime in below with your thoughts on these potential lineup or give us your game plan to beat the Wildcats.