In just a few weeks, UCLA Basketball will begin an exhibition tour of Australia, without its Australian player Jonah Bolden. We told you this may be coming, but what does it mean? Here is a quick list of 10 things that may be impacted by Bolden deciding to turn pro.
10. For the bottom line, nothing. Steve Alford still has to deliver a big season this year. No one should forget the debacle of last year. His seat is hot. There are no excuses. This is still a very talented team. A basketball team does not need to be more than a seven or eight-man rotation. Further, UCLA has a number of scholarship players to ensure quality practices.
9. UCLA's likely starting five top to bottom is one of the best on offense in the country. There are weapons at every position. We should be able to score on anyone with a likely starting lineup of four guys (Thomas Welsh, TJ Leaf, Isaac Hamilton, and Bryce Alford) for freshman sensation point guard Lonzo Ball to dish to on offense for production all over the floor. The loss of the wild shooting and sometimes out of control Bolden makes UCLA potentially better on offense.
8. Speaking of Leaf and Australia, TJ will get a chance to play a lot of minutes at power forward or four from the start. TJ needs to develop fast and the extra games this summer are a blessing.
7. It is hard for a freshman big to play in the PAC 12 because of the SPTR. The referees have different standards on the road and home; and from crew to crew. How TJ and Ike Anigbogu adjust to this will be key. UCLA needs rebounding and defense more than anything else from these guys. It is up to Steve Alford and staff to prepare them for the PAC 12.
6. Steve Alford needs to drop the 1-2-2 zone with the four on top. Kevon Looney and Jonah Bolden were both good enough athletes to be able to play up high to disrupt things and then slide down low to rebound, etc. Leaf and Gyorgy Goloman (GG) are not suited to this. Alford needs to shelf this and come up with other zones or ways to cover the defensive liabilities presented by playing Bryce Alford big minutes.
5. Alford's use of GG will be interesting to watch. Prior to injury last year Alford was going to start GG at the four. GG looked out of sync and struggled last year after coming back from injury. Will Alford delay TJ's development and start GG? With a lineup of Welsh, GG, Isaac, Bryce, and Lonzo on the floor at the same time, UCLA may have one of the slowest in foot speed teams in recent memory. Will Alford limit the Welsh/GG time together?
4. For me the new X-Factor is Ike. We don't need offense from him but can he be a rim protector and force on the Boards? Will Ike get more minutes as our most athletic big?
3. How is this team going to defend? Is Alford going to double down on his strategy of letting teams beat UCLA from the outside? It worked for the Kentucky game last year. Will UCLA play a lot of packed in zones? Will Aaron Holiday play more minutes as now arguably UCLA only quality defender?
2. For this team to reach its potential it must dominate at home where young bigs are less likely to get into foul trouble. Alford needs to win all his PAC 12 home games this season.
1. Lonzo Ball is special. He is the best player to come to UCLA in the Alford era and the best true point guard since Baron Davis. As long as he is healthy, there is no excuse for UCLA not to have a damn good season.