UCLA’s next opponent, Oregon State, is a bad team. They are 4-10 and that is just the beginning of their problems. Oregon State lost to Portland and Cal State Long Beach; teams that UCLA beat by a combined 59 points. They are ranked 203 in KemPom. The only thing Oregon State has going for it tonight is they are at home and UCLA could let down. Really, don’t see either mattering. Should be an easy win for UCLA.
So instead of a preview, let me write a couple observations to some of the kvetching going on around the UCLA basketball world.
Lonzo Will Be Off For a Half or a Game
Lonzo Ball is a selfless winner. He truly does not care about stats. He cares about winning. Tonight, against Oregon State, he could easily score 20+ points. It is more likely he scores less than 10. Why? Lonzo is at his best when his best is needed. Other times, he is happy to let others get the limelight. He will probably get 10 assists though as he works on setting others up.
Also, keep in mind Lonzo can take over a game for a period of time. He showed that in the Kentucky win and the Oregon loss. The kid is human though. He can’t play at that all-out level for 40 minutes. Keep in mind he leads UCLA in minutes played.
So on the Kvetching scale, this is a 0. There is no reason to whine, worry or complain on Ball’s play. The kid is amazing, enjoy him.
Isaac Hamilton has always been a bit streaky. Unfortunately right now he is in a negative streak. Isaac is 2 for his last 18 threes. Moreover, he is looked a bit ugly in his misses and his game has been off.
There was a game early this season where we started off feeding the ball to Welsh as Welsh had been ignored. Tonight, I would love to see us working on getting Isaac some open threes and looks.
So, yeah this is a reason to kvetch a bit. Isaac needs to shake his slump. He scored effectively against Kentucky and over his first two years. Need him back on track. Kvetching scale a 5.
I was shocked to see people saying maybe having Thomas Welsh back screwed us up somehow against Oregon. One of the nicer things about this season for Steve Alford is the plethora of options. In no position is that more obvious than Center.
With Welsh, Alford has a veteran who plays with near perfect technique and gives UCLA an option that is relatively rare in today’s basketball, a great midrange shooter. Yes, Welsh is slow but here comes the good news. While many say Aaron Holiday is the best athlete, I would argue when you factor in height that Ike Anigbogu is the best athlete. He covers a lot of ground with his shot blocking, can leap out of the building, is quick for a center and even has nice touch. Unlike Welsh, Ike is raw. But the combination gives UCLA two very different looks and, more importantly, two very good college centers.
The only worry about Welsh is sometimes he is good but Ike is better. This is the happiest problem UCLA faces. Kvetching scale: 0.
Obviously, UCLA fans have kvetched endless about Bryce and as Nirya pointed out in his post game thread some of this is over the top. However, I want to change my opinion on one matter and why I am going to Kvetch a bit about Bryce against Oregon. Or better put, Steve Alford’s use of Bryce at the end of games.
Steve Alford said:
"Bryce is who we want at the line. More times than not, he makes some big shots that gets us back into games in the final minutes, and that's the guy we want at the free throw line.”
Bill Walton (Paraphrasing as I do not have the recording said) when Bryce is passed the ball at the end of the game:
"There is no way he is giving up the ball in that situation.”
Walton was not only lucid at this moment but a 100% correct. Why is this a worry? Forget the missed free throws in the Kentucky and Oregon games, what about the turnovers? Bryce got called for an offensive push off foul against Kentucky and tied up for a jump ball against Oregon. The latter we kept the ball but there is a problem here.
If you are playing UCLA at the end of a close game and need to foul or get a turnover, you know UCLA only has one play: get the ball to Bryce. If you have a few seconds, an opponent does not have to foul Bryce but can double, shoot triple team him, knowing he will not pass the ball. This is a good way to force a turnover.
The fact that UCLA is so predictable is problematic. (H/T Bruinette88). The fact that Bryce will not pass in this situation doubles this problem. After the Kentucky win, Steve Alford said:
Then we really settled in and had poise until about the last two minutes. That’s probably on us as coaches more that it is the guys. We haven’t been in a game like this where we’ve had to burn clock and get the ball in against pressure. We’ll learn and be better the next time.
It’s on you, Steve. Now, everyone knows there is only one UCLA play in that spot. You need to come up with something new or we may again lose a close game. You haven’t fixed it and it is now a problem.
Kvetching scale: 8. Yep, it is a legitimate complaint and worry.
Let’s not just win tonight but get Isaac going.