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UCLA Basketball: Is the Howland Magic Dead?

Kyle Anderson and UCLA shooting woes among other issues discussed.

Kyle Anderson needs to do a much better job of shooting.
Kyle Anderson needs to do a much better job of shooting.
Stephen Dunn

Let's beginning with the bottom line which involves the past four years, today and the future: Howland needs to win the PAC 12 and make a deep tournament run this season. A second place in the PAC 12 or another tournament birth and wash out in the second round is not going to be good enough. And for those of you keeping track, that has been Howland's best finish in the last four years.

PAST--What have we learned in five games?

1. Is Kyle Anderson worse than Larry but almost as good as Kevin?

The comments threads are littered with people panning Kyle Anderson as not top 5 freshman or calling the comparison to Magic Johnson laughable. Let's break that down a little bit. For this purpose I always thought people were saying that Kyle was like Magic in that Kyle would be an elite point guard in a power forward's body.

Bad: Over two games against both the best and worst teams (JMU and Georgetown) UCLA played this year Kyle went 1-16. For the season Kyle is 0-6 from three and only 47% from the Free Throw line. Kyle is shooting 30% overall. Kyle Anderson has also had some trouble getting his shot off inside.

Larry Drew, a bad shooter for career, is shooting 37% and 30% from 3. Pretty bad but a lot better than Kyle.

Good. Kyle is leading UCLA in rebounds with 9 a game and 3.3 minutes per rebound clip. This is an outstanding number. By comparison, 2011-12 leader David Wear led UCLA with a rebound every 4.5 minutes. This number is better than any rebound leader in the Ben Howland era not named Kevin Love. Kyle, who plays point at least some on offense, is rebounding at an amazing pace, like a top power forward.

On the subjective level, I would argue that Kyle has made some amazing passes from all over the floor and showed the potential to a great passer. I think his assist numbers would be higher both if played more point and with a few breaks.

Bottom Line: Magic Johnson did not break 30% from three until his tenth season. Magic was a bad outside shooter until late in his career. But in those early years Magic averaged between 7 and 9.6 rebounds a game while playing point guard and twice led the league in steals. And, course, Magic was phenomenal free throw shooter who never shot under 50% from the field until his ninth season.If Kyle wants to be compared to any sort of junior Magic he needs to not settle for a three, take the ball to the basket more, convert, and make his free throws. Kyle has shown flashes of great passing, averaging a decent 1.4 steals per game, and is a rebounding force. However, slo-mo needs to do a much better job shooting, which he started to do in the Georgia game.

2. Our Zone Offense is Offensive.

While UCLA fans were ecstatic that Howland finally played zone against Georgia, I think the bigger problem may be opponents zoning UCLA. Georgetown held us to 70 points, UCI to 67 in regulation and Georgia held us to 60. The faster offense grinds to a halt against a zone.

UCLA is shooting under 30% as a team from three. Leading scorer Jordan Adams is shooting 27% from three. But I think that is not the biggest issue.

Our offense against a zone often looks confused. We don't seem to understand what to do. Kyle at the high post could be an incredible weapon against a zone. There are other ways to beat a zone besides a three. UCLA zone offense really needs to improve.

One of the indirect reasons a zone on defense may help UCLA, is our offense really needs to practice against a zone. These next two games I really hope, the opponent zones us a lot and helps us work on are huge problems here.

THE PRESENT-Cal Poly Preview

1. The Team

The next game is against Cal Poly Mustagngs Sunday night. Cal Poly is 2-1 this season and went 18-15 last year. But they only returned two starters and lost their top three "Scorers." I say "scorers" because Cal Poly is a team that scored 65 points a game and regularly played games in the 50s. In two of the first three games this year Cal Poly opponents have scored 53 points and Cal Poly lost one of those games. Cal Poly has beaten a PAC 10/12 team just once, last year 42-36 over USC (Yes that was a basketball game). Cal Poly is shooting 38% for the season

On the good side so far Cal Poly has done a good job taking care of the ball. Cal Poly is a slow deliberate team.

Cal Poly boosted its Big West-leading assist-to-turnover ratio to 1.74-to-1 after distributing 18 assists against just six turnovers versus Fresno State (Nov. 19). Entering Sunday's matchup against UCLA, Cal Poly has committed just 7.7 turnovers per three games this season.

2. Matchups

6'7" Chris Everly is the Mustangs leading scorer and their leading returning scorer. He is their star and is transfer from Rice. He shot 45% FG% and 30% from three last year as the Mustang's offense of the bench. Everly will play the four and he also leads Cal Poly in rebounds.

The Center is 6'9" Brian Bennett was a member of the Chicago All Area High School Team but is not really a threat. He is shooting a good % inside and had a double-double his first game but it has been downhill since.

The shooting guard is Dylan Royer. Dylan is a former walk on who takes most of his shots from three and has taken the second most on the team.

The other shooting guard is Chris O'Brien is a transfer from San Francisco. Chris scored 10 points against UCLA a couple years back but is really good only at shooting free throws.

The last starter is the point guard Jamal Johnson. Jamal is like Larry Drew in that he really does not like to shoot. He is a pass first point guard but does not make many mistakes.

Bottom line: Cal Poly wants the game as slow as possible. If I were Cal Poly, I would dare UCLA to beat me from the outside and further try to make Anderson and Drew take shots. I would even consider gambling with a junk defense like a box and one on Shabazz or Adams denying them the ball to make others beat me. Cal Poly does not have a player who could make the UCLA team; they need UCLA to beat themselves.

This should be an easy game but UCLA offense will have to play better. Cal Poly wants to win this game 58-56 and the Bruins should make sure it is not close by scoring a lot early.

The FUTURE-3 National Letters of Intent

UCLA signed three players for next year to letters of intent according to the press release this week: Noah Allen, Allerick Freeman, and Zach Lavine.

The Bad: What the three were not, "a point guard" or a post, UCLA's biggest needs. The point guard problem may be overrated. Anderson may not be a one and done. Freeman looks like he could be a point guard, just watch most any youtube video of him. And Lavine is the "rated the No. 1 shooting guard on the West Coast by and the No. 6 point guard, nationally, by"

The post problem is more interesting. But again, depending on who comes back this may not be as big an issue. Still, UCLA has not recruited a true point guard since **gulp** Jerime Anderson.

The Good: Lavine is the best shooter (yes better than Adams) UCLA has recruited since Michael Roll and a better athlete. Freeman was the "N.C. Preps' N.C. 4A State player of the Year" last year and is strong for his size. Allen is a long term prospect who wanted to go to Harvard but had to come to UCLA for financial reasons. As UCLA currently struggles with just 10 scholarship players (never healthy), it will be nice to have a smart good four year kid on the bench next year.

Bottom line is at the top: The future does not matter unless Howland takes care of the present.

He has two easy games next week (Cal Poly and CSUN) to work out the kinks before an almost must win vs. San Diego State in the Wooden Classic.

Go Bruins!