Play your four best players over 30 minutes and rotate your center position. Sounds like the secret to success for UCLA right? Well actually it is exactly what Stanford is doing and it has led to a win over a ranked team and tied with UCLA in the PAC 12 standings with less talent at the big four.
How come UCLA does not play its four best over 30 a game? Or more specifically why doesn't LaVine start and Powell play more minutes?
Except for a bad loss at Oregon State, Stanford has done all right this year with four guys playing that many minutes.
Just for fun let's match up UCLA's top four against Stanford's top four.
Defense Power Forward. First off Kyle Anderson is the best point guard and the PAC 12 MVP. How important is Kyle to UCLA? In PAC 12 play Kyle is first in every category for the Bruins but steals and field goal percentage. He is second in both of those.
As far as matching up with Stanford's very athletic power forward, Dwight Powell: Kyle beats him in every statistical category except offensive rebounds (because Kyle plays point on offense) and blocks. Kyle is a better point guard and power forward then anything Stanford has. That is not to say Dwight is not good. Powell passes well for a big and is athletic but is a poor outside shooter. Huge Advantage UCLA.
Defense Small Forward. I called Dwight Powell the power forward, one could also argue that Josh Husteis plays that role as he leads Stanford in block shots and rebounds. But Josh can also shot well outside unlike Powell so we will call him the three. Matched up against Jordan Adams who is playing more like a three these days with his surge in rebounding. In only conference games, Jordan is averaging almost 8 rebounds a game and has been a key to UCLA's better rebounding. If you only go by conference games Jordan is out rebounding Stanford's leading rebounder Husteis. Jordan and Josh are an interesting match who have both have seen their numbers drop during conference games. While Jordan has the chance to dominate a game, right now we will call this match up even.
Shooting Guard on Defense. Anthony Brown. Brown has been a revelation for Stanford this season and a key to their success. However, if you compare Brown to LaVine the first number that stands out is Brown is playing almost 8 minutes more a game than LaVine. I don't think anyone can argue that Brown is better than LaVine. LaVine is playing almost a third less time, yet his numbers are comparable to Brown with the exceptions of rebounds and LaVine being a better ball handler. However, LaVine is a much more talented athlete and you have to believe that LaVine with his ability to create his own shot and pass is a better player. Add in home court and advantage UCLA.
Point guard on defense. Okay, first off Kyle is a better point guard than Chasson Randle. No one can argue that. But for this purpose we are matching Randle with Norman Powell, the likely defensive match up. First off Randle plays 11 more minutes a game than Powell; almost one and half time the minutes Norman plays. Is he that much better? Powell shoots a better FG % than Randle, has over twice as many steals (arguably an important thing for a point guard or point guard defender), and a better assist to turnover ratio. Randle is Stanford's number one option on offense but not a true point guard. Randle is a much better three shooter than Powell but not then Kyle. On the other hand Powell is UCLA's best defender and Randle is not in that conversation for Stanford. With UCLA at home and factoring in Kyle role as point guard, this match-up is advantage UCLA or at worse even.
Really UCLA first four are either as good or better than Stanford first four with Kyle way ahead of everyone else.
The rest of the matchups are not worth dwelling on except to say that role players generally play better at home. Advantage UCLA.
Another note that many may have missed is Travis Wear is starting to play better. In conference play he is shooting 54%, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists per game. The last number is shocking.
So the question remains will UCLA play its big four big minutes and at the same time? Or will Alford leave it to our best player Kyle Anderson to carry UCLA? It may be enough but I would rather see Norman harassing Randle on defense most of the game and LaVine on the court bombing away.