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UCLA Basketball News Roundup: Ball Makes His Case to Be the Top NBA Draft Pick

The Celtics may be taking Ball Number 1

NCAA Basketball: UCLA at Washington
Lonzo Ball stood above Markelle Fultz
Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

I really have to disagree with all the beat writers on the one. The theme of their stories is that Lonzo Ball and Markelle Futz canceled each other out and UCLA was the better team in the 107-66 blowout win. Clay Flower’s article is typical:

Lonzo Ball versus Markelle Fultz was about the only entertaining aspect of UCLA’s 107-66 win at Washington. The No. 11 Bruins, who figure to move up in the rankings after another chaotic weekend in the top 10, ran away early with a game they led by 44 in the closing minutes.

Fultz and Ball, the focus of the 21 scouts in attendance for Alaska Airlines Arena’s first sellout in five years, were the game’s two leading scorers with 25 and 22 points, respectively. Ball made 7 of 12 field goals and added six rebounds and five assists. Fultz was 9 of 19 from the field with six rebounds and five assists.

The difference was UCLA three other players with at least 20 points. Bryce Alford had 21 and TJ Leaf and Aaron Holiday had 20 apiece. Fultz had little help from his friends in Washington coach Lorenzo Romar’s worst loss in his 15 seasons.

That is true but Ball way out played Fultz. Don MacLean mentioned that Fultz looked like he did not care and was cruising but Ball wanted to address his critics. To me, this article from Mass Sports on what the Celtics should do with their likely first pick in the NBA draft on the game is more interesting. First on Fultz:

If you are a person who believes heavily in tools and analytics, you will love Fultz. If you are more inclined to believe in intangibles, you might not like him quite as much. Still, you would be hard-pressed to deny his potential as a star.

That brings us to Ball.

Ball started off the game either covering Fultz or taking the top of the 3-2 zone where Fultz would largely be playing, and Ball picked off four steals. He's a good athlete, and while it's difficult to take much away from a zone defense when he'll play exclusively man in the NBA, but his length, quickness and basketball acumen will likely serve him well on that end.

Ball also dropped in a nice tear-drop floater from just inside the free-throw line in the early going. While the small sample size argument is an important one, Ball was well aware of the NBA scouts in attendance. He wanted to show them improvement in his problem areas, and he pulled it off. That's significant, even in a blow out.

And the conclusion:

If the Celtics get the top overall pick, Fultz is a conventional potential star -- low-risk, high-reward. But if they don't, Ball will merit a long look -- he might be closer to medium-risk, high-reward, but he'll be extremely intriguing.

Fultz is a phenomenal basketball prospect, Ball is a winner. As UCLA fans, we must never forget how special and unique Ball is. He is a great player who makes ALL his teammates better and does anything to win.

As far as the game, UCLA faced something unique Saturday. A defense worse than their defense and UCLA destroyed it.

The outcome was decided by UCLA’s dominant first half that led to a 52-34 advantage at the break and could have been even larger if not for a rash of sloppy turnovers.

Ball had 12 points in the first four minutes of the second half and it was just the start of the rout. UCLA led by 44 in the closing minutes.

While the second half became a blowout, it was UCLA’s first-half offense that exploited every deficiency for Washington at the defensive end. When the Huskies played zone, the Bruins exploited the middle and found open shots for Leaf. When the Huskies switched to man, Ball shook free off the dribble and found his teammates for easy baskets. Two of Ball’s three assists in the first half were slick lobs leading to dunks for Leaf and Ike Anigbogu.

Steve Alford in his post game comments focused on UCLA’s defense. He said:

I thought the big difference was our defense. By far it was our best. I think our efficiency was 81. We had more kills, which is three in a row for us that is something we chart, than we have had all year. I just thought we were active. We got a lot of deflections and that led to open court play which our guys are really good in.

And who led that defense?

Lonzo just does what Lonzo does and that is prepare his team the best he can and do the things that he does to make everybody else better, and he made a lot of guys better tonight. He can beat you a lot of ways. He had five deflections at halftime. He beats you with his defense, he beats you with his ability to create for himself, and he can create for others. And then when you forget about him he makes two or three 3's in a row, which takes the lead from about six to 12. That is just what he does.

Thank you, Lonzo. Go Bruins!