Nice to be back. I’m not about to walk us through my Friday night. I already exposed you to too much of my life in last week’s essay. So rather than tell you I absorbed pizza and beer and two screens worth of Pac-12 hoops, let’s just run through some astute observations and leap to gross conclusions about the season based off of one weekend. Rational? I just watched Interstellar so it’s all relative.
I only watched the first half of UCLA’s Friday game because they won by 1000 and the opening minutes of Sunday’s because of 2 hours and 45 minutes of hoping Matthew McConaughey would run into Cyrus the big bull in Space. But when I was tuned in I saw Norman Powell – he who we know needs to be an Alpha Bruin – swallow a rebound, run coast-to-coast, absorb contact and finish with utter authority. He’s Cyrus the bull, taking 15 FTs en route to 25 points on Friday. He perhaps cooled off on Sunday but not much, still collecting 13 points.
Toughness and rebounding while pushing the pace. That’s what Cuonzo wants to do and that’s what his conglomerate of wings has done. Let’s also take a look at how Ty Wallace has faired because Martin seemed to have the nicest things to say about his 24/7 effort: 22/10/4 + 16/9/7. Further, Cal’s managed 69% and 78% defensive rebounding percentages while 20% of their shots have come within the first 10 seconds of the shot clock (as opposed to 15% last year). One other thought: I loved Monty on the microphone. Very paternal with his guys, not really hiding the fact that he’d been their coach for the past few years. Fun to hear.
UCLA in general
Kevon Looney and the aforementioned Bull (NorMAN) took 32 free throws between them Friday night. Then Looney went full double-double – 17 and 14 with 11 more free throws taken. Additionally, of #DaddyBall note, Bryce Alford has 19 assists to just 5 turnovers and a ton of other positive statistics. But the focus here will be on the other side of the ball. UCLA played a lot of zone. This isn’t new but it certainly seemed to be more than just an occasional thing and has never really been a staple of Steve Alford teams. Of course my primary UCLA focus this year will be on the identity of the Alford era. Maybe this is it? Zone and run. Like I said, gross conclusions based on one game. Nevertheless, Looney (6’9” tall, 7’1” wings) at the head of your zone isn’t a bad option.
I’ve never seen a ‘T’ sandwiched by two ‘Ls.’ I’d also never seen Jakob Poeltl until his name was listed in Utah’s starting lineup and then he threw down a running one handed oop. Did you know he’s a seven-footer? Yeah so if you haven’t taken notice, it’s time we start paying attention. And if anecdotes don’t do it for you, perhaps you need a little quantification, how’s 18 and 12 in that debut? Take notice.
Standard stuff here. Talented roster who will play moderately enigmatically and won’t really pull away from anyone. Remember how we talked about scoring differential? It doesn’t really matter in that wins are the greatest stat (You’re dealing with an Arizona football fan here), but it can be used for predictive reasons. I’m not prescribing Stanford’s season over a pair of games but just sorta thinking they won’t be soon surprising us.
Matters of Troy
Rebuilds take time. They’re messy and unswift and 23 turnovers is rarely a recipe for victory. It’s also a byproduct of the Andy Enfield offense. If you’ll recall, when I did my big ol’ study of how players affect the game, I included Bret Comer, the best ever Dunk City point guard. In his first season with Enfield, Comer had a 33% turnover rate. They were ranked 249th in the nation in that category. Last year the Trojans ranked 260th. So when the Trojans coughed it up 32% of the time in losing to Portland State, it was just a good reminder that rebuilds take time.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s jump shot