In their last three games, the UCLA Bruins, owner’s of the nation’s sexiest offense, have posted efficiencies of 109, 102, and 99 points per 100 possessions. That accounts for three of the Bruins’ six worst 2016-17 performances. Trend or slump? I believe it’s the latter as the Bruins were a little banged up and had perhaps lost the element of surprise. Consider, UCLA’s lackluster performance in the Pac-12 tournament came against two teams it was playing for the third time each. Disinterest? An excuse Steve Alford in fact danced with. Nevertheless, Bryce Alford is 5 for his last 25 from distance (during the aforementioned three games) while Aaron Holiday was 5-19 in Vegas.
And here’s a little food for thought. In ignoring the adjusted metrics (the default KenPom numbers I generally cite and that you’re most used to), I wanted to see just how “bad” UCLA’s defense has performed. By even the adjusted numbers, their defense has most certainly improved, it’s currently sitting at 99.8 points per 100 ranking 78th nationally. The last team to make a Final Four outside the top-60 in adjusted defensive efficiency was VCU (fun fact #23). But I needed some additional perspective. So looking at the raw data, the Bruins indeed rate worse, 101.3 points per 100 (113th nationally), but what of their peers in that 100 PPP range? Kansas, Duke, and Creighton all rank greater than 80th nationally with raw defensive efficiencies of 100 or higher. This is a distinction that, of course, is directly addressed by the the adjusted metrics (most notably impacted by opponent and location). But in trying to contextualize some parts of the UCLA dilemma, I thought this might be helpful. To some extent, it suggests that the Pac-12 was so abysmal it cost what many of us saw as a poor UCLA defense an adjustment into mediocrity (Kansas 28th, Duke 39th, Creighton 40th). Thus, as you sort your brackets, remember all those shots UCLA made and perhaps ignore some punditry.
Furthermore, the Bruins are just fine as a half-court offense, rating in the 72nd percentile nationally. Let’s not mistake it for elite but it’s not poor. It in fact ranks 100th nationally with Florida State just twelve spots better at 88th (0.854 PPP vs. 0.841 PPP, respectively – and note that Synergy PPP data calculates possessions differently. We can disccuss offline if you please). The issue rises in UCLA’s poor ability in transition. They rank “below average” according to Synergy, the nation’s 269th worst transition defense. Here’s Isaac Hamilton attempting to use his foot:
First Round – #14 Kent State
Power Rankings are rooted in the present, an expression of immediate results accounting for only the current taste on an evaluator’s tongue. The best of PR’s are a declaration of recency bias, rationalized the facts, figures and stones.
Here’s my recency bias without recently posting any Power Rankings. Also, the following, unless noted as an opinion, consists of no alternative facts.
I’m skipping straight to Saturday’s game. It’s neither my job nor responsibility to be weary of overlooking an opponent. Arizona’s visit to USC is intriguing and I’m indubitably, unequivocally, absolutely watching. I’m in fact meeting a new hoops friend – RTC contributor, Michael Lemaire – for a Thursday evening of viewing and fandom. A delight.
But I’m not previewing Arizona’s visit to the Galen Center. Continue reading
I’ll spare you the details of my Thanksgiving indulgence. Most of us indubitably did it and if you didn’t I admire you. For me, the ubiquity of food and rain placed the “go outside and be active” threshold far too high to go outside and be active. But seriously, was it a first down?
Alas, while I’ve spared you my Thanksgiving, I thought I’d note that I’m likely headed to Friday’s Pac-12 Championship game and my fan allegiance is completely for sale. So what’s it to you? What would you pay or provide to have the self-proclaimed preeminent Pac-12 basketball blogger cheer for your (football) team in the dimly attended Pac-12 Championship Game?
A brief review of my Pac-12 championship game resume:
- Championships attended: 1
- Rooting interest record: 0-1
- Rooting interest margin: -38
- Seating fortune: Covered during rain
- Average time of arrival: Legal to drink on CalTrain
- Average time of departure: Early 3rd quarter
- Post-championship beverage of choice: Pisco Sour
I encourage you to take the above into serious consideration as you – Colorado and Washington fans, or even USC fans rooting for Washington and subsequently the Rose Bowl backdoor – prepare offers. For convenience purposes, I own several black pieces and one purple. Thus, attire will not be required but appreciated.
Finally, Pac-12, post-Feast Week, team capsules in no particular order (we’re not ready for Power Rankings): Continue reading
We’re finally previewing the Pac-12. This week, the last before games actually tip, I’ll post two previews of travel mates (i.e. UW and WSU will appear in the same post) and, in the interest of being fully prepared for Friday’s hoop joy, I’ll post two-a-day. Thus the title. Although it’s 4 previews-a-day. Regardless. Enjoy. (Other school previews)
At what point is the 15-17 record exhausted? What about the letter? You’re unfamiliar? Perfect. Let’s be besties. The Bruins concluded 2016 with their 4th losing season since 1948. That’s a minute. And because it was the fault of the defense (199th nationally, 9th in the Pac-12), Steve Alford returned his contract extension bonus ($5.2M) and apologized to fans. We’ll get further into things below. But UCLA basketball hasn’t felt like UCLA basketball for awhile. What’s going to change this year? Is it a top-5 recruiting class? Seen it. Is it a new attitude? Heard about it. What? Will? Change?
Last season on “Keeping up with Wooden”