In their first game this season in Salt Lake City, Utah beat UCLA 71-39. The Bruins only scored 15 in the first half. Bill Walton was calling it a practice game for the Utes.
That was the Bruins' fifth loss in a row. We knew about the point guard problem, the weak bench and the half-hearted defense, but that stretch exposed other issues:
1) The team can't play away from Pauley. The jitters, as the players, called them in the post-games were part of the reason for the slow starts.
2) Their field goal percent is horrendous -- less than 40% in conference, but including the blow-outs versus Cal and USC.
3) There is no transition game despite all the hype about it by the coach. This is a half-court team.
4) The guards played individual games, and it was ugly. Bryce Alford was 2-16 at Colorado and 0-10 at Utah, Norman Powell was 9-20 and 3-8 and Isaac Hamilton was 6-14 and 1-7.
5) Norman Powell doesn't cover the opposing team's best 1-3 for more than half the game.
Meanwhile, Kevon Looney was a double-double machine, and Tony Parker was often the only player to show up (although the loss to a Josh Scott-less Colorado was, in part, due to a no-show game from Tony).
The Bruins had bottomed out, and were happy to get back home. Steve Alford gave the team a mantra, "three win in nine day." With a little unexpected help from a late foul shot miss from a Chasson Randle, an 89% free throw shooter, the Bruins actually did it. They won three games within the LA city limits mainly because the offense started to flow through Tony Parker, and the guards seem to be under control.
However, after the Oregon road trip, it seems like the Bruins are back to the same place they were on January 4. It's possible that we might be having a different conversation right now if Tony Parker didn't miss those games, but nevertheless, the losses sting more as the season progresses no matter why they happened. Wayne Tinkle is pulling a rabbit out of his hat in the Gill Coliseum, but still, if the Bruins' season depends on beating Gary Payton II plus intramural players, then there was never any hope. Sure enough, the players, with no help from the coaches, gave up in Eugene.
The Bruins can't win this game against Utah on Thursday night.
That said, here's what I'm interested in:
1) Does Tony Parker play, and if so, is he rusty or effective?
2) They're in Pauley. Does that mean they'll play inside-outside, have energy, and shoot at a respectable FG%?
3) Does the team say one way or another, what they're playing for? Is there a mission on the white board again?
Basically, I want to know if the Bruins have imploded, given up, or are still playing. And if they are still playing, is there a plan that they'll adhere to for most of the game? This will tell me if they can beat Colorado.
Can you talk about match-ups after you've already lost to Utah, 71-39? Here's the box score of that game. This is striking: Utah scores 71 points, and yet their leading scorers only score 11, 10 and 9 points. They out-rebounded the Bruins 42-28, but the offensive rebounds were the same -- the Bruins missed 37 shots while Utah only missed 17. Their point distribution tells you they're a sound, selfless team.
Checking the comparative stats now, Utah leads in virtually every category, but the Bruins still have appear to have an offensive rebounding advantage. In Utah's loss to Arizona, they only had 19 rebounds compared to Arizona's 40; Arizona led in offensive rebounds, 17-4.
So what do you? Don't take those contested shots! Utah will probably have a different game plan this time. They may focus more on Tony and Kevon having seen tape from the three games in LA. Still, I want to see the post-focused offense, a relentless attack on the boards from Tony and Kevon, and I want Norman to forgo the jumper for dribble penetration.
Now there's the rub. Delon Wright will shut Norman down if he covers him. Last game, Loveridge spent the most time on him. If GG gets more minutes at Hamilton's expense, the Utes will lay-off GG and cover Powell. Then you call plays for GG to shoot. I'd call it a chess game, but I don't expect much of a match.
The good news regarding Colorado is that the Bruins will be in Pauley. The other good news (apologies to the Colorado players) is that Colorado may be without Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson.
Here's DCBruins' preview from the first game. Nothing's changed. Both teams are still desperate, but now it's in Pauley, and the Buffaloes might be missing two players.
From the last box score, Booker took 15 of their 48 shots, but Hamilton had him under control for most of the game. He ripped us late after Looney got into foul trouble, and desperation set in. That game was lost because Bryce went 2-16 and Tony disappeared.
Though the stat comparison does favor Colorado a bit, I don't think Saturday's game is about them: cover Booker, make sure Tony plays and keep Bryce under control. I think it's more about the psyche of the team after the Utah game.