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UCLA Basketball: Week 9 Hoops Q&A -- Winning Formula Edition

The Bruins have won two games at home at go across town to play the trogans tomorrow night. Much has been made about the "winning formula." We've been advocating that here for a while now, but we don't know if the Bruins can keep it up. Luckily, the PAC-12 is proving to be weaker than we thought.

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1.  UCLA finally listened to us and pounded the ball inside.  Looney and Parker were the first options and for only the third time this year Parker and Looney both had double digit shot attempts. Will UCLA be able to stick to this winning formula?

DCBruins: Stanford, California and Kentucky were the three times this year Looney and Parker both had double digit shot attempts.  (Actually the only three games that Parker has had.)  In contrast, Bryce has had only one game, against UAB where he shot less than 10 times.  However most impressive about the pounding it inside first was that they stuck to it.  Parker was 1-6 in the first half against UC Berkeley and 5-5 in the second including scoring 6 of the first 8 points.  It was great they kept getting him the ball.  It was also nice to see plays actually called for Looney and his getting the ball without have to rebound it first.  And hey, when we do that it makes it easy for Hamilton especially to score.

Can we keep to it?  Will they buy in? It is a lot easier at home.

chrissorr: If Looney can play way he has for the last game and a half on the road, then yes, it's possible. We'll know January 22 at Oregon State -- though I think they are another guard-oriented team. Of course, winning helps with the buy-in. In the end, it seems like the question is really: is Bryce buying in. Everything else flows from there. Odd considering Bryce sleeps 15 feet away from the coach.

2. The PAC-12 season is off to a crazy start. Our old projections are already out the window. What's your power poll, 1 - 5?

chrissorr: 1. Utah, 2. Arizona. 3. Colorado, 4. Stanford, 5. UCLA

I'll give the Bruins a bullet and a shot at third place. Stanford may drop a place. Washington 0-3, just outside, is talented enough; perhaps a home stand will help. Colorado third by default, but Josh Scott is back. Utah vs Arizona this Saturday.

DCBruins:  My heart is with you but not my head.  Let's see what they do on the road.  What happens when Parker's drawing the charge becomes a blocking foul on the road?  Or if Looney gets in foul trouble?  Colorado without Scott is not that good yet we lost that game in part because Parker and Looney had four fouls. This team does not have a margin for error on the road.  We could get "upset" like we did against a Scott-less Colorado.  In seven losses, five times Looney has had four or five fouls.  The two losses he did not were Utah and Kentucky; times we were clearly out classed.  1.  Utah 2. Arizona 3.  Oregon State 4. Colorado 5.  Stanford (Travis Reid will be back).

3.  Did Steve Alford not lose the team?

DCBruins: Looks like my predictions that he lost the team were incorrect.  I based this in part on the disappearance of Kevon Looney.  Looney was back in a big way and we won two in a row.  (Funny how that works when you involve your best player.)  The team finally seemed to realize that their strength is inside not at guard.

Also, major kudos to the quiet captain Norman Powell.  Powell has been really beat up but has never stopped playing hard.  He could have just as easily got sick at the antics of Bryce and Isaac and quit.  Instead he has kept doing his job through what had to be a lot of physical pain and trying circumstances.  Thank you Norman.

chrissorr: One made foul shot by Randle or perhaps if the OT out-of-bounds call went the other way, we might be having a different conversation. That said, I don't know how they would have lost to Cal. Steve Alford did drill the "three wins in nine days" mantra into the team, and that seemed to work, and like you said, it was Looney who wouldn't let the Bruins lose. Kudos to the team, but it's not over.

4. Were you surprised that Golomon didn't play more vs. Cal -- he had 12 minutes compared to 24 vs. Stanford?

chrissorr: I was a bit. I guess Steve Alford sees him as a Powell or Looney replacement and they had 35 minutes each. After the Stanford game, it looked like he jumped Allen, and Welsh is strictly a Parker replacement. I don't have a problem with it as the bench doesn't contribute much, and I'd rather see it reduced. That said, you could see the minutes increase Golomon's comfort level.

DCBruins:  I was pleasantly surprised at the bench production in the UC Berkeley game.  Not that 7 points is a lot but the three was Goloman's career high and the four by Allen equals his total for the last 10 games.  Goloman is clearly the sixth man and arguably the biggest surprise this year.  However, most teams go three guards, not three forwards.  Our man defense is better than our zone now.  Against three guards that means Looney has to cover a third guard if you play Goloman over Allen.   That is a tough trade to make.  I guess I would up Goloman's minutes but it is not like he has been great so is it worth screwing with Looney. Goloman is just playing smart and within himself, more than many "better" players on the team.

5. What do you think of this theory: take out any of the three starting guards and the team gets better?

chrissorr: It didn't apply at Cal, but they turned out to be a cupcake. There is something to it if the play is selfish. If they stick to the plan, then I would rather not use the bench. But it was striking that the Bruins could play even with Stanford with Golomon on the floor for 24 minutes, mostly replacing Powell. Even a statue is better than guard playing his own game.

DCBruins:  Depending on opposing coaching and defensive matchups there is merit to the theory.  I do think Steve needs to keep Bryce and Isaac under control.  I think you can live with some bad forced shots from Powell.  So, I think you do need to remind Bryce and Isaac their roles, whether it is by calling a timeout, benching them or even starting GG who will always pass first.  I also think Goloman is looking like a decent defender in spots.  Allen and Goloman both play smart, but Goloman, and even more so for Allen, are limited in other ways. (Allen is shooting 21% and GG is 0-7 from the free throw line.)  That is why opposing coaching and matchups matter.  Can the other teams coach exploit GG or Allen?  Alabama did, Stanford did not.  A close loss and a close win.

I guess if this were the non-conference, I would bench Isaac and give a quick hook to Bryce and start GG.  But it's not.  I would play GG more but only if the other coaches don't take advantage or by matchups.  It is a tough spot and why coaches like Howland are so harsh and cost us games in the non-conference trying to drill in habits for the conference games.