It was another lost weekend in Oregon. This happens too often up there. The weekend of February 15-16, 1974 was the most infamous occurrence in UCLA Basketball lore. Bill Walton's defending national champs lost on consecutive days to Oregon State and Oregon, and Sports Illustrated made a cover story out of it under the title, "UCLA's Lost Weekend." Bruinsnation posted under this theme in 2009.
This time, the loss in Eugene was perhaps the Bruins worst game of the season given Oregon's lack of talent beyond Joseph Young, but the loss in Corvallis was the real back-breaker -- no Tony Parker-related pun intended. Whatever hopes we fans were holding on to (the race for third or March Madness) in spite of madness of the regime, they're over now.
Bruin Report Online's theory is that the entire team has a green light to shoot, and so what you see is a collection of individuals trying to score instead of playing like a team. Meanwhile, the L.A. Times intern, who didn't go to Oregon, decided to write an article about father-son/coach-player combos in college basketball. Steve Alford said:
There's a lot of noise that wants you to change who you are," Steve Alford said. "And I've never been a part of any coaching situation where it's been father-coach to where it's been favoritism. If anything, it's the other way.
"If I'm a fifth-grade coach, yeah, probably my kid's playing a lot," Alford said. But, he added, "This is college basketball. This is big-time business."
We're all trying to read minds since the embattled North Korea-style hermit hoops regime only conveys propaganda, but I like the Bill Walton theory (my interpretation and embellishment): they ‘re all f'n dumb, guards and coaches.
Would UCLA have won the first game, Oregon State, if Tony Parker played? I say yes. We all saw the empty seats at Gill Coliseum -- attendance was around 6,000, and the refs didn't call that many fouls, so I don't think home court advantage counted for as much as anticipated.
I don't mean to glorify Parker or say this is a good team with him. As a matter of fact, I criticized him as someone who "will never box out at UCLA" during the Azusa Pacific game. However, having a legitimate post changes the complexion of the game on defense, and especially on offense. On defense he is a part of the rim protection tandem with Looney, and on offense, he becomes a focal point that appeared to work as the guard's hero ball tendencies were in check for most of three games. They Bruins appeared to have found a winning formula in the inside-out offense.
Looney, although he is the best player on the team, does not fulfill that necessary role. Late in the OSU game, Alford tried to keep him near the basket on the block, but his positioning is not great there -- though standing on the low block, his body is straight up and parallel to the baseline. Further, especially on the road, he tends to disappear in the first half whereas at home, you will see him take his man off the dribble. Still, all that comes away from the basket.
Looney is the best player. If he was injured, I wouldn't have to be nuanced in my analysis. We'd be dead and buried, but that doesn't diminish Parker's role.
The Oregon Ducks shot 62% for the game -- 75% in the first half. The Bruins shot 41% which is slightly above their conference average of 39%. Oregon is the number one offense in the league based on points per game, but 75%? That's what happens when you are in your own gym, and no one is covering you.
We already know the Bruins are defensively challenged, but why was it so ugly this time? You name it: two games in three days with seven men and a steep drop-off after the regular starters, no Tony Parker, etc. Mostly, I don't think they came to play after losing to Oregon State. Mission number two probably was to win two games in Oregon. After losing the first game, they are all wondering what they're playing for. If it was a tournament bid, then that's out of reach unless they win the PAC-12 Tournament.
Sure enough, there was baffling pay-calling (if you they were actually calling anything). In the last 2 1/2 minutes at OSU, Bryce shoots a long-range three when they thought they were down by 2, and yesterday, Doug Gottlieb pointed out all the Bruin foibles including not knowing if they were in a zone or man or who to cover on an in-bounds play which left Joseph Young wide open for a three and enough time left over for him to have lunch. WTF? Where is the genius Coach Schilling? And I will still not agree with never starting Norman Powell on the other team's best player. I don't know if the economics will allow Alford to be fired (although the choice), but he'd better do something about his staff.
Except for the Isaac Hamilton's continuing funk, I don't think you can point to the guards for wrecking the offense this time. I like that Norman took him man off the dribble, and drove to the hole so much. I just wish the ball would have gone in more. I also liked that Bryce is clearly playing off the ball much more in these past two games. GG and Welsh, on the other hand, didn't look good in their extended minutes. It was interesting that GG started the second half in place of Welsh.
You have to feel sorry for the players. They were let down by the coaches, and they gave up. What do you do now?
As a coach, you try to keep them focused. It sounds laughable, but you have to continue with the short-term missions even though they may be changing: can you win at home, can you win the PAC-12 Tournament, can you get into the NIT, and can you win the NIT?
The NIT is not a UCLA-worthy goal -- I know. I'm going to take it game by game too.