1) What's your good, bad and ugly for the past two games?
chrissorr: Good: The light clicked on for Norman back in the second half of the first Oregon game. Last night he was unguardable, and he held up well at Arizona too. I couldn't believe that even Alford was going out of his way to find Norman. Bad: Looney didn't show up vs. Washington, and then got outplayed by Hawkinson of Washington State. Ugly: Is Tony all-in? He's been playing very well, but getting benched is not confidence inspiring.
DCBruins: Good: Isaac Hamilton running the offense at home. In the last four home games, Isaac is averaging 8 assists. He is looking to pass to the post and this lets Bryce go to his natural role of shooting guard. Bad. Looney is floor bound now. (See below.) Ugly. Guard minutes. Powell played 40 against WSU and 34 in a blowout against UW. Bryce played 39 (and was pulled after a bad play briefly) and 35. There are officially no backups 1-3 now.
2) What's wrong with Kevon Looney?
DCBruins: While many focus on the ups and downs of Tony Parker, I think the bigger worry is the consistent downward trend of Kevon. Yes, he is shooting great from three but he is only averaging 6 rebounds a game for his last four games. Moreover, he has looked relatively floor bound. He does not seem to be the same player he was at the beginning of the year. Mattg theorizes that he is worn down from the long season and too many minutes. I think there is something to that. I think he may be banged up as well. It could also be that he is spending more time looking for three pointers but I honestly believe it is a physical thing. Good news for UCLA is he only has one game in the next week and half so hopefully he can rest up a bit.
chrissorr: I agree that he is wearing down, and perhaps the nerves are ratcheting up again in the home stretch. Also, against Hawkinson, he reminded me that he's not necessarily a good man defender.
He could have been the difference maker vs. ASU and Arizona. All these things do not portend well for the PAC-12 Tournament.
3) How did Washington State play a close game at Pauley with nothing to play for?
chrissorr: I wonder if Tony's benching had a depressing effect. This was the fastest game UCLA has had to play in a long time -- 72 possessions. It seemed like they couldn't handle it. Also, Bryce spends a lot of time on Lacy. Hamilton was on him for the middle of the game, and started to quiet him down. Norman finished the game on him, and shut him down. It will be one of the season's mysteries -- why isn't Norman covering the opposition's best play. Easy answer is all his fouls, and he probably couldn't score 28 point otherwise. But there has to be a better balance than this.
The most disappointing aspect of the WSU game to me was that Looney was outplayed by Hawkinson.
DCBruins: The game had little to do with WSU and a lot to do with us. 1. The x-factor for this team is Tony. Tony playing makes us a different team on offense and defense. It is also for little reasons such as because Bryce won't pass (he did once) to Welsh and the team seems to understand the importance of establishing Tony. 2. The other reason is Looney is looking tired. WSU was out rebounding us early in the game because without Tony they were a better rebounding team. That is scary and not possible in January. Welsh is easy to push around but Looney is just not rebounding like he was.
4) Can Isaac Hamilton run the point in a neutral site game?
DCBruins: Isaac is not a good ball handler. Isaac would be the fourth option to break a press. Yet, in recent games Isaac has operated okay to good at point at home averaging 8 assists the last four games. This works when Bryce has dribbled the ball up the court to hand it to Isaac so Isaac does have to deal with pressure. It also works because Isaac seems to generally, not always, understand that Norman and Tony are the top two options. His points are not as important as getting those guys the ball. However, Isaac seems like a different player at home and has been awful at times on the road. Overall, I guess it is worth trying, but it is more of a sign of how badly we need a point guard that we even have to consider it.
chrissorr: I see improving confidence: difficult entry passes, thread the need passes on the fast break (played perfectly with Tony running down the wing vs. WSU), dribbling through the legs and behind the back. I think he stepped back a bit from trying to score.
The die was cast when we went into this season without another option (like Octeus and the point guard misses before him). Now you do your best. The defenses went from guarding Bryce to doubling Tony. I think it leaves Bryce alone in the corner a little more so let him play there.
5) Let's do a lighting round on UCLA's most likely PAC-12 Tournament opponents. What is the percent chance that the Bruins win, and a brief observation?
In order of likelihood of meeting:
Stanford: 65%. Yep, this would be three games vs. the Cardinal, but we own them mainly because of Parker. I can't give credit to Dawkins for learning enough to match-up better this time around, and they are slumping.
Arizona: 42%. It's not hopeless. Sure, Arizona should win this game, but we've done well against them for three years now. Perhaps we do have to catch them on a bad day (except that they also have a lot to play for - top seed in the NCAA West Bracket). It's important not to let them get off right from the start. I was very encouraged to see that Powell can play with Johnson and Hollis-Jefferson. Looney has to rebound big-time -- this is my greatest concern lately. Lay off them, and hope they miss from the perimeter.
Utah: 46%. Again, I would not bet on this game without a nice spread, but Poeltl is in a slump (I was shocked to see the easy time Tarczewski had with him), and again, Norman might be unguardable. UCLA will be tired if they make it this far, but that aside, the Bruins have more talent in the starting lineup.
Oregon: 58%. This should be an easy game. Maybe I'm too old school, but if you have two good bigs, and the other team has none, then you should win. Plus Norman should score at least 25 against this team. That said, the Ducks have the best perimeter offense, maybe even defense to the eye test, in the conference, and they are hot right now.
Stanford: 90%. They are coming apart right now. Dawkins is a worse coach than Alford. Only chance for Stanford is Randle and Brown to be on fire.
Arizona: 20%. Agree with what you said but I think the fact it is a back to back game hurts us and helps them. They are deep and their bench is better on offense.
Utah: 30%. The toughest one to put a percentage on. If Looney was the same player as the beginning of the year, I would feel better.
Oregon:50%. Altman is better coach than Alford. We have the better players.