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UCLA Basketball: Week 14 Q&A -- End Game Edition

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After beating the Oregons, the Bruins look like they just might finish the season on a 6-1 run as we've been pontificating here on BN. One big challenge remains on the road: Arizona State. We start to look at the end game in this week's Q&A.

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

1)  We started the season at 50% zone (mainly 2-3)/50% man, then crept up to 80% man and now we're back to around 50/50 except that the zone is 3-2. What are your thoughts?

chrissorr: We've both come to be more concerned with the offense this season accepting that defense was not going to win games for the Bruins. The 2-3 was really bad because Bryce and Isaac weren't good in it. I was happy to go to mainly man defense, and they did seem to get better from Alabama on. The emergence of the 3-2 with Looney at the top was surprising. It seemed like a novelty act at first, and I was concerned that Looney would tire out, but that hasn't been the case.

The PAC-12 is a conference of guards, so the 3-2 makes sense to protect the perimeter, and it alleviates the Bryce/Isaac problem.

Is Looney too far from the rim? Maybe, but in theory, you do often put a rebounder there with the clear path back to the basket.

There have been cases where it's failed. The corner 3 comes to mind. You can defend that two ways from this zone. The low man could chase after it, and the top man drops down, or the wing defends it the rest the perimeter rotates. They're not good enough to do this.

All-in-all, I feel good about 3-2 mixed with ma. I was surprised not to see it more against Oregon.

DCBruins: Our defense has improved for a number of reasons.  First effort.  Powell really did inspire that with his speech. Second is Looney in the 3-2.  You talked about a 3-2 previously.  Instead of the press of earlier this is an actual 3-2 zone.  It gives us a unique look to take advantage of a unique player.  Third changing defenses help mask some of the flaws on our team and the zone and 3-2 is part of that.  Fourth.  Isaac Hamilton is inconsistent but at times a real team player.  When working on D he makes a difference.

2On the recent home-stand Isaac Hamilton played 79 out of possible 80 minutes, Bryce 76 out of 80, Norman Powell, the slacker of the guards, played 72 minutes.  Will fatigue be a factor on the road?  Will the minutes catch up to us?

DCBruins: It seems likely one of these three will get in foul trouble on the road as the SPTR seem to favor the home team.   This is the kind of thing that can cost us.  Also, it is easier to play hard at home with the crowd behind you.  Hearing "Air Ball" if Isaac misses a three badly or Bryce hearing "Daddy's Boy" all game can also hurt and make it harder to overcome being tired.  Also that is a lot of minutes which could lead to injury or more likely resting on D.  Maybe we have no choice but it is one of the reasons that we likely play so much worse on the road.  It could lead to us losing to ASU and does seem to mean there is no way we can win the PAC Tourney with 3 games in 3 days.

chrissorr: I'd be happy with one PAC-12 Tournament win if everything else goes to plan. There are a lot of issues to prevent them from winning - - fatigue is just one of them. The coach said three times in the presser that fatigue didn't influence the end of the Cal game. I don't know why he played Bryce and Norman so much in this one particular game. I can understand why Tony and Kevon are exceptions. Norman fouls a lot too, there is a pattern of protecting him (not playing the opponent's best guard/wing), and GG subs for him as well as Noah. Still, I don't understand why the best player right now is not the one with the most minutes.

3) NCAA bid or not?

chrissorr: I say yes right now, but it will always be tenuous. Even if they beat Arizona St., Washington, Washington State and USC, if they lose by 30 to Arizona or get knocked out in the first round of the PAC-12 Tournament, the Selection Committee will have an excuse to jump UCLA with Stanford or Oregon.

DCBruins: UCLA got a major break in the schedule with so many home PAC 12 games to close out their schedule.  There is a good opportunity to finish strong which is important to the Selection Committee.  UCLA can waste that opportunity by choking in the first round of the PAC 12 tournament.  Nationwide there are still memories of the UK debacle and the selection committee is no exception.  However, I think UCLA controls its own destiny regarding the NCAA tournament.  This team should make it now but there is not much margin for error.

4) Point Isaac?  Isaac has 16 Assist to just 3 turnovers in the last two games.  Meanwhile Bryce has no baskets from 2 in his last two games but is 7-13 from three.  Is this because he is off the ball more?

DCBruins: Isaac has done a great job feeding the post the last couple games.  Bryce has spent more time running off screens acting like a 2 guard.  Other times Norman takes over at the top.  I am not sure Isaac is really the point but UCLA is playing more of the motion offense and a no point guard style that Steve Alford bragged about it...  Taking Bryce off point is a reason why we are doing better on offense.  It will be interesting to see what happens against Arizona.

chrissorr: I agree with you, and Isaac seems to be more confident with his dribble. It's not ideal to have the ball in his hands so much, but the offense is so much more balanced and dangerous  with the four other players legitimately able to score.

The Oregon game became odd to me in the latter part of the second half as Bryce and Isaac looked like they were deliberately stalling. They may have just been very tentative, so I'll never rest easy with the ball in either of their hands.

5) Norman Powell is coming on strong. Should he be POY or first team all-conference? Who will be the POY?

chrissorr: Well, we know the league and the beat writers go with guard-heavy all-conference teams, so I think he should be first team all-conference (and he's playing the 3 -- sort of). It would be hard to jump Delon Wright, Chasson Randle, Gary Payton II and Joseph Young for POY, and listening to the announcers, a bandwagon is developing for someone from Arizona, either T.J. McConnell, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson or Stanley Johnson. No way it should be TJM, but it's sad, in general, that the conversation is going there.

DCBruins: As far as POY:  There is something to the Walton theory, best player on the best team.  I think that does not quite fit as I think it will be the best player on the second best team, Delon Wright.  (Stanley Johnson will win Freshman of the year from the first place Wildcats.)  There is a longshot path for Norman but it would have to involve beating Arizona and winning out with him leading UCLA to a perfect finish.  I think he is a lock for All PAC 12 First Team at this point.

Powell is the best offensive and defensive player on the third place team.  Payton and Wright can also claim that for their teams so in my modified Walton theory, the winner for Player of the Year is the player on the best team of that group, Wright.