Remember all that buzz about the win over Arizona? Championship aspirations! Howland's a great coach!
Welcome back to reality.
The Arizona State Sun Devils outplayed the Bruins in every aspect imaginable today. So while we were treated to nonsense from Marques Johnson about "addition by subtraction" referring to the losses of Joshua Smith and Tyler Lamb actually helping our team, on the floor we were getting eaten up inside by the second coming of Kareem in ASU's Jordan Bachynski. No really, check this out. 22 points, 15 rebounds, 6 blocks on 10-12 shooting. That's pure impose-your-will domination, and anyone that suggests that we couldn't use a big like Smith to counter that is dreaming. Of course, we all know why Smith is no longer with us...
The Sun Devils as a team held a 20 rebound advantage over UCLA. An 18 point loss may even be generous to us, because it really didn't feel that close. ASU had the Bruins' number, whether it was playing a zone or specifically sagging off of Larry Drew II to take advantage of his reluctance to shoot, Herb Sendek put together a game plan that took Ben Howland to school. All game long, ASU drivers had easy access to the lane due to shoddy perimeter defense. Perhaps Howland was afraid to go to zone given our rebounding problems, but really how much worse could they have been? Rather, it's more plausible that this is just another example of inflexibility that lays waste to hilarious claims that his coaching style is different and that he deserves to stay.
Another example? Howland's weird infatuation with playing David Wear more minutes than his play deserves, which as of this game is anything more than 0. We all know about playing favorites, but at this point it's just ridiculous. He experimented with a lineup that had both Tony Parker and Wear side by side, which was supposed to do...what exactly? Rebounding? No, if he wanted more rebounding, Norman Powell would be in instead of Wear. It's an odd pairing for a team that doesn't have that many potential lineups in the first place. Wear had an absolute nightmare of a game, and given his history this shouldn't have been a surprise. The real crime here is not mercifully taking him out, not just for the team's sake but for the sake of his own confidence. By the time Wear missed a wide open dunk late in the already decided game adding to his 2-12 statline, the damage had been done.
That's not the only place Howland's substitution patterns hurt us. Jordan Adams had a consistently good game (until the very end), but Shabazz Muhammad was shut out of virtually every possession for at least 15 minutes in the middle of the game. Many of those possessions came up empty on David Wear hero ball shots. Much was made of the defense on Bazz by Carrick Felix, but the best defense against him was really Howland and Wear.
The Howlers will whine and cry and point to the absence of Travis Wear to explain away the complete demolition of our team inside and out. If Travis were some sort of shut down defender and rebounding machine, that might be convincing, but does anyone believe he wouldn't have gotten just as eaten up by Bachynski today?
No, there are no excuses. The good vibes from the Arizona game are officially gone. It's sad, because everyone loves these players. They play hard even if they aren't playing with direction or purpose. It's just a shame that they don't have a coach that is able to harness their talents and fulfill their potential. It's one of the many reasons Howland needed to be canned earlier. These players deserve better. Coach's program deserves better.