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UCLA Basketball Moves Off the Creampuff Diet

The easy stretch of the basketball schedule is over

Kyle was MVP.  Zach and Jordan all Las Vegas Invitational
Kyle was MVP. Zach and Jordan all Las Vegas Invitational
Ethan Miller

UCLA basketball is 7-0 and has been "fun" to watch.  The hyperbole machine has been kicking into gear. However, UCLA now begins to play some real teams  and the hype will begin to be tested against reality.  Ten statements of hyperbole tested with reality.

1.  7-0 Baby

Reality. 1-0 against good teams, 6-0 against bad teams.  Drexel is a good veteran team.  The rest of the opponents are 19-27 with only Morehead State having a winning record.

2.  Alford's start is better than Wooden's.

To his credit even Steve Alford realizes this one is ridiculous.  I hope the morons at the Morgan Center are not the ones putting this out.

Steve Alford seemed almost embarrassed when the topic of his new record came up following UCLA's 95-79 victory over Northwestern in the Las Vegas Invitational on Friday night.

The win improved the hot-shooting Bruins to 7-0, the best start for a first-year coach in UCLA's storied basketball history. The old mark was 6-0 by some guy named John Wooden in 1948-49.

"No, no," Alford laughed when asked if it was a huge stat. "It's a little different than 88 (straight wins) and 10 national titles."

3.  Kyle Anderson is Magic Johnson

An article entitled "UCLA's Kyle Anderson is the Best Passer in the Country" makes the following compassion:

The passes that Anderson threw to his teammates were on time and smart, making him the best passer in the country. At 6-foot-9, Anderson can see over smaller point guards and can guard wings or the point position on defense, making him a truly versatile player.  He is a very poor man's Magic Johnson but has the potential to be one of the most exciting players in the country.

Kyle is ranked fourth in the country in assists and Defensive rebounds.  That is a pretty amazing stat.  He may not be the best passer in the country but he is certainly the most unique point guard in the country.

4.  The offense is the best since . . . forever

First off the offense is pretty dam good but keep in mind the competition is also ugly. UCLA is fifth in the country in points per game, second in field goal percentage and third in assists per game.  The last may be the best as the first two are products of the cream puff schedule but sharing the ball so much is encouraging.  After the Northwestern game Alford said:

The Bruins shot 63.6% (35 for 55) from the field and a scorching 76.5% (13 for 17) from three-point range. Bryce Alford was four for four on three-point shots, LaVine four for five.

"We couldn't do much more offensively in this event," Steve Alford said. "We moved the ball well, we made a lot of shots, but we still have to get better defensively. We have a lot of maturity to gain on the defensive side."

5.  Alford is better than Ben Howland

Yes, Howland would likely have lost to Drexel or someone else and would not be 7-0 now.  So what?  Howland II (Ben Howland of the last five years) was fired , so being better is somewhat meh.  UCLA should never lose to a Drexel type team let alone a Cal Poly.

Reality is if Alford does better than Howland at the END of the season (as in wins a series of NCAA tournament games) then we can talk about being better than Ben.

6.  Zach Lavine makes fans forget Shabazz Muhammad.

That is the wrong comparison.  Shabazz was the scorer and number one option on the team last year.  This year that role has been taken by Jordan Adams.  So far Adams has performing that role better than Shabazz if for no other reason he plays some defense and he passes.  A number of beautiful alley-oop passes have come from Jordan.  It is also great to watch Adams score in every possible manner.

So really UCLA is better with Jordan Adams as the number one option on offense, so far.   Keep in mind playing the Oakland Golden Grizzlies in Pauley is not the same as putting up 23 in McHale Center.

7.  UCLA has three McDonald All Americans at the 4 and 5 spot so that will work itself out.

The Wears and Tony Parker were all McDonald All Americans and Chad Posthumas of Morehead State was not.  Yet Posthumas, arguably the only decent big man UCLA has played so far, scored more points and had more rebounds than all three of those guys combined in their matchup.

Or as Jack Wang put it after one of the cream puff victories:

The frontcourt still looked shaky as starting big men David Wear and Tony Parker combined for seven points, seven rebounds, and nine fouls. Travis Wear - still working back into game shape following an appendectomy - had four points and two rebounds, while freshman forward Wanaah Bail had three points and two steals.

The worries here are real.

8.  Wannah Bail is a great athlete who can save UCLA inside, look at the nice dunk and the great body.

Bail did not play competitive basketball last year and until recently was limited in what he could do physically.  It is asking a lot for the kid to suddenly come in and play effectively

9.  Norman Powell is a great player now that Howland is gone.

The fact of the matter is no player benefited more from Howland leaving than Norman Powell.   One stat alone tells the story.  Norman Powell is 0-10 from three and still shooting 60% overall for the season.  Norman is not great but a solid contributor.

As of right now this is a team of three all PAC 12 level stars, one solid player (Norman Powell) and a hole in the middle.

10.  Zach Lavine is a Star in the Making.

Okay, I don't want to be too much of a Debbie Downer in this reality check. So here is the thing, I think LaVine is better than advertised.  LaVine is scoring every way and looks like the best shooter on the team, yes better than Adams.  Don't get me wrong, Adams is a better scorer but LaVine has not only some major hops, he also has a sweet stoke from the outside.  What happen in Vegas may be a sign of things to come:

Sophomore Kyle Anderson was named tournament MVP and nearly had his second career triple-double. . . . Adams and LaVine were named to the all-tournament team.

The reality check for UCLA fans here is of Adams, Anderson, and LaVine, LaVine may be the best pro prospect.  So the good news is LaVine is so good that UCLA has a shot at three All PAC 12 players, but also needs to prepare for the possibility that two or three players go pro next year.  What I am trying to say is Alford needs to succeed big this season to get a point guard recruit late and possibly find replacements for Adams and LaVine.

This offense has been fun to watch.  But the ultimate reality check here is no one is going to remember this start in March if UCLA does not recruit well for non-bigs and finish the season on a high note.

Go Bruins.