- What’s Happening at the University of Missouri? – This is a terrific breakdown of the goings on at the University of Missouri over the past few weeks and months that culminated in yesterday’s resignation of school president, R. Bowen Loftin. I was struggling to figure out the entire story until I read this one. And while the entire picture isn’t completely clear, with hundreds of #HotTakes muddling my timelines, this article helped to think critically on the situation.
- Confessions of a non-‘naturally grown’ sportswriter – Which side of the sports media fence do you fall on? “Naturally grown” journalists or kids on a platform. The reality, as is the case in most he-said-she-said arguments, lies in the middle. We’ve examined this as ESPN shut down Grantland and every site aspiring to be Grantland stared wide-eyed. I got my daily sports email from The Lead Sports lamenting our loss an their sites to provide great content like G. The very article I linked to is a “blogger” writing for a blogging platform (The Cauldron) that was purchased by Sports Illustrated and is a takedown of a traditional journalist writing on his own blog. It’s all too meta. Fact of the matter is change drives change. Keep up.
- Luke Walton Q&A: Warriors’ dominant start, filling in for Steve Kerr and more – 35-year-old head coach of the best team in the NBA.
On November 9, 2011, the sixteenth ranked Arizona Wildcats committed 21 turnovers. They would win that basketball game, 67-59, despite their starting backcourt combining for 2 assists and 8 turnovers. Including guard efforts off the bench, the backcourt numbers balloon to 5 and 11. That was the last game TJ McConnell would lose in the McKale Center. He was a sophomore guard for the Duquesne Dukes and six months later he would transfer to the University of Arizona. Continue reading
Since 1985, either UCLA or Arizona has won 21 of the 28 conference titles. That’s 75% of the championships. That’s domination. That’s a rivalry. The bastions of Pac Hoops and there have been some ball games, some players, and some heat. We could play word association but I don’t’ want to watch Wildcat reactions to Gadzuric, Kapono, or Mata-Real.
I do, however, want to know more about these new look Bruins. Do we even call them that? Whatever they are, they’re Steve Alford’s baby blues now and he has two sons on the team and that’s kinda cool. And their point guard leads their team in rebounding by a per game margin of 3…so yeah, I want to learn. Enter: Go Joe Bruin, the internet’s most reasonable, insightful, and complete UCLA site. It’s different than the other kids. And their witty twitter handle. I asked, he answered. The game is at 6pm Thursday on ESPN. The rivalry rages on.
Let’s start with what Steve Alford’s preferred film room temperature is…?
It depends on a lot of things. Actually, it doesn’t. I bet he watches film cold. Freezingn. Cold.
I grew to appreciate LD2 a ton last year and his leadership and skill was a huge part of their success. In turn, that led many to wonder how the Kyle Anderson point guard experiment would go. Fourteen games deep, it looks to be going quite well. Tell us about how he makes UCLA better?
People were pining for Anderson to take over ball-handling duties last year and so it took a lot of time for fans to warm up to Larry Drew. They did warm up to him, but the expectation was that Anderson would be running the offense, coach be damned.
Well it happened, and I gotta say, overall, it works for me. He’s got pretty remarkable vision, is really damn smooth, and is really unselfish. He’s got his issues and sometimes I think he tries to do too much. The 2.27 AST/TO ratio isn’t bad, though, so maybe I’m just being picky.
Most importantly (and perhaps most surprising) has been his improved scoring skills. He’s got quite a few moves down low and we both know he’s pretty deadly I’m the mid-range game. I think what’s really scary is he can knock down threes when he’s got the open look, and that’s a part of his game that I haven’t really seen. He doesn’t do it often (confirmed by his only taking 24 three-pointers over the past 14 games) but I think it adds a dimension to his game that already makes him one of the best do-it-all point forwards I’ve ever seen.
Of course, there’s his rebounding abilities, but I have a million more questions to get to.
All of that said about Slow-Mo…how awesome is Jordan Adams?
Adams is awesome. He’s been awesome. He’s struggled at times – and he had an uncharacteristic shooting slump not too long ago that he shook off rather quickly – but he’s a stud.
I don’t know if UCLA has a better shooter than Adams. He’s a deadeye from there. He can stroke it with a hand in his face, off balance, in transition, on a boat, in a train, all that jazz. He’s gotten better in nearly every statistical category because he’s gotten *that* much better.
A little input from the fan base at large – a lot of fans felt he should’ve been UCLA’s first option on offense somewhere close to halfway through the season, and I think that makes sense. His production outmatched Shabazz Muhammad’s on a per-minute basis, and I’m sure he’d be getting so much more recognition now if that had been the case.
Another reason I love this matchup is that stylistically, the UCLA offense is built to beat the Arizona defense. The Bruins are terrific from mid-range and used that to torch AZ last season (3-0). This year, the Bruins are more effectively getting to the rim (LOVE YA J.ADAMS!!!!) but are still shooting the 5th best FG% from 2pt range. Meanwhile, Arizona’s third rated KenPom defense is built to force 2pt jumpers: 54.5% of shots against leads the nation and teams shooting just 32.5%. Immovable object, unstoppable force. What makes the UCLA mid-range game so effective, if not lethal?
As much as I talk trash about the Mildcats, you’re right – UCLA has all the match-ups necessary to beat Arizona, and not just once, but, oh I don’t know, three times in a season.
That’s not because Arizona sucks, but really, it’s because they’re willing to give up the most inefficient shot in the game, and that just happens to be an annoying strong-suit of UCLA’s. (Although I guess you could argue the most efficient shot in the game is an open one.)
Adams is a lock to drain those open jumpers, and we know Kyle can drill ’em, too. The Wears — when they’re picking-and-popping, a weapon that has disappeared since LDII left the team — can drain them. And now you’ve got Zach LaVine, another shooter, albeit one who is partial to threes and dunks, and Bryce Alford, who’s quickly coming to his own as a shooter and floor general.
Of course, as much as UCLA was cool with taking those mid-range jumpers, it kinda feels like this team’s tempo dictates more of its offense than it did last year. I don’t believe they’re much faster than Howland’s squad last year, but they definitely attack the basket in transition more frequently than their 2012-13 counterparts.
So yeah, to answer your question, the personnel makes the mid-range game lethal. It’s not as emphasized as it was last year and again, i think that’s largely because LDII was so quick to penetrate on pick-and-pops, but I do think Alford should specifically vitalizes that aspect of UCLA’s game against lengthy, athletic Arizona.
He did touch the ball.
He didn’t. I think we should ask Sean Miller what he thinks though, so long as we tape it.
The two-point jumper is one weapon, but UCLA also thrives in transition (11th highest % of their offense there). Meanwhile – and I’m about to expose this immovable/unstoppable theme – Arizona allows just the 9th highest percentage of offense in transition. How are the Bruins getting out into transition so much? How cool are Zach LaVine dunks?
I didn’t know about Arizona’s transition defense but I could’ve guessed that. They’ve done a good job against teams who want to get out on the break.
I think the one thing that people haven’t noticed about UCLA’s success in transition is the gambles they take to get out on the break, primarily on defense. UCLA is a bit ridiculous at forcing turnovers (note that they’ve got 150 steals through 14 games; that’s third in the country), and we know what happens when the perimeter guys can force turnovers.
And it’s not like UCLA is a rebounding team – this has to be the worst team in terms of rebounding I have ever seen in my life, and statistically, I’m pretty close to being right!
If Arizona really wants to stop UCLA’s uptempo offense? Take care of the ball.
All-time favorite Bruin?
All-time favorite Bruin: Darren Collison, and honorable mention to unconventional one-and-done Larry Drew II.
All-time favorite Wildcat? I know you have one. Ed O’Bannon and Darren Collison are tied for my favorite Bruins.
I like Steve Kerr. As a player, a commentator, and as a friend. (I’m not his friend yet but it’s definitely happening.)
Wear family. I don’t know what else you want me to say — they’re a frustrating duo that plays their asses off. I’d probably love them if they could rebound.
And talk to me about the Bruins’ frontcourt. I’ve been underwhelmed and we’ve tweeted about as much. Talk about it because it’s Arizona’s strength:
You’ve been underwhelmed? Your expectations for UCLA’s front court may have been a tad unreasonable.
They’re pretty bad. Really bad, even, as long as we don’t include Kyle Anderson. In fact, he leads the team in rebounding and rebounding percentage — he’s a perimeter player.
Parker comes in as a close second in rebounding rate, but the Wear twins are well below every starter and nearly every rotation player.
I mean, they just don’t have the fundamentals down. Positioning, hands, etc. They’re rather ‘soft’ and don’t necessarily do well when grinding down low with other bigs.
Is that a key to this game though? I don’t think so. UCLA is annoyingly content with huge rebounding disparities and they even win convincingly in spite of them. They’ll beat good teams without rebounding (see: Arizona, 0-3), and I find that shocking.
When the rebounding is even, it’s almost a surefire UCLA win because they just don’t do it on a regular basis. When they’re getting boards, they create opportunities in transition and they also stop the opposing team from earning second chance shots.
But it doesn’t happen often. I don’t need stats to tell you that, and no, I’m not too lazy to look them up!
The Bruins have settled into a zone for much of their defensive season and this question is two-fold: 1) How does that make you feel? 2) Which zone has it been, primarily, and do you think it’s effective?
One of the narratives surrounding Ben Howland’s downfall was his stubbornness on defense. He kept saying his teams weren’t athletic enough to compete but he refused to play zone. We know zone defenses can mask a lot of deficiencies, and UCLA’s lack of athleticism is a deficiency that the zone can ease.
That said, too much zone, and teams adjust. The well-coached teams dismantle it within a couple of possessions, sending a ball-handler to shoot those gaps on the perimeter and make the defense collapse with penetration.
Alford doesn’t always allow that to happen – he’s been good about switching up his defenses to throw different looks at opponents. Aside from a basic man defense and and a 2-3 zone, he’s totally willing to roll with a 3-2 zone, and he’s just as willing to play ultra-aggressive man defense in both the half-court and full-court. It depends on the situation.
So why does UCLA suck so bad defensively on paper? Well part of it is that UCLA just isn’t athletic, especially down low. That’s where Arizona can and should abuse UCLA, and they should do it with reckless abandon. They should crash the offensive boards because those kill the Bruins, and they should just plop in the paint and penetrate and do all that.
Which Wildcat are you most concerned with?
I’m most concerned with the bigs. They’re really talented, really long, and really good. The points in the paint margin is going to be brutal.
Enough funny business: Tell me what happens Thursday?
Arizona wins. I question whether UCLA can exploit the mid-range game, and that’s because the pick-and-pops aren’t there like they were. If they can’t, Arizona is going to murder them inside.
Plus UCLA hasnt beaten a good team. Conference games are different, but still.
If UCLA wins? You’ll never hear the end of it. Ever.
Perhaps long ago it was projected that Solomon Hill would be drafted in the first round. But ever since first donning Arizona’s cardinal and navy, things have seemed to be an uphill (no pun) battle for him.
First it was his weight. Arriving on campus soft if not big and in the doghouse with first year coach, Sean Miller. Hill had sights on playing the two-guard while Miller was questioning if he’d play at all. In that freshman campaign, the aspiring two connected on just four three pointers at a 22% clip. By the time he left Tucson, he would make 111 more at a 38% clip. And though he wanted to be a two-guard, his team needed him to be a forward. So he did that; leading the team in rebounding in 2011-12 as the team’s second tallest contributor. The following season, Miller and the Wildcats needed him to do everything. Once again he did, finishing amongst the top-3 Wildcats in nearly every statistical category.
The consummate teammate, Hill worked hard his entire Arizona basketball career and on Thursday night he saw the fruits of his labors.
Solomon Hill was drafted twenty-third overall by the Indiana Pacers. The first round.
Quickly, he was welcomed to the league:
— Sean Miller (@UACoachMiller) June 28, 2013
I can’t welcome a teammate at this point…. So welcome to the league Solomon Hill!!! #beardown
— Andre Iguodala (@andre) June 28, 2013
Congrats to @kingxsolo on becoming a first round pick of the Pacers. Heart and soul of Arizona basketball the past few years.
— Steve Kerr (@SteveKerrTNT) June 28, 2013
YEAAAA SOLO!!! Man you don’t know how happy I am right now … My roommate for two years .. He improved so much man .. This is crazy.
— Derrick Williams (@RealDwill7) June 28, 2013
Hill is Miller’s first four-year player to be drafted, a momentous occasion for his proclaimed Player’s Program. Such a talent and meaningful component will undoubtedly be missed.
I, for one, enjoyed watching every bit of the aforementioned development. Each October it looked as if a new player had arrived, energized to be the best player he could be to make his team the best it could become. It near broke me as his most valiant of efforts to come back against the Ohio State University didn’t quite shine.
Floor, meet all of it. Hill’s MO whilst in Tucson.
Alas, this isn’t a post-mortem, it’s a celebration of the kid’s hard work. Bravo, Solo. The Pacers are getting a tremendous worker as mentioned but perhaps, more importantly, they are subtly piecing together a very modern basketball team. They’re compiling the pieces to become a conglomerate of versatile and large defenders. A tone set by the two-time champion Heat and swiftly being adopted across basketball (see: 2012-13 Ohio State Buckeyes, Kawhi-love, Pacers roster).
A closing anecdote:
I was presented with a late arriving invitation to last season’s basketball media day. My first access to credentials, I promptly let work know I was sick while spending the vast majority of media-day-eve preparing myself to ask a plethora of questions. And when finally faced with my moment to confront Solomon – he was alone at the Arizona circular, banquet-style, luncheon table – I anxiously approached. My prepared question somewhere amongst my notes but dancing top of mind.
“Solomon! I’m Adam Butler with SB Nation, how are you today?”
“Good man, how are you?”
Did he just bother to ask me how I was? Indeed I was caught off guard but had question, top of mind. A mission.
“Solomon, I’m from Tucson and I’ve just go to know: Nico’s or Beto’s?”
A brief silence ensued as the 22-year-old contemplated my asinine request to understand for which local taco shop he held an affinity.
“Never been to either one, actually. Heard they’re good, though?”
Never had this collegian been to Tucson’s most notorious – and fantastic – late night dining.
And maybe, just maybe, that’s why he’s headed to the league.
The glass has to be half full. It must with nary a game yet played. For such, over the next few days, I’ll be posting why each of the conference’s twelve teams have reasons to be optimistic.
- Big People – One season ago, the Arizona frontcourt was manned by a 6’7” and 6’6” tandem. Today the Wildcats’ lane will be occupied by nearly fourteen feet of human. A difference maker indeed and Sean Miller had this to say about it:
- Grad School – It’s not unprecedented but Mark Lyons’ transfer to Tucson from Xavier to begin graduate work and play basketball could wind up being cited as one of the most impactful transfers, ever. Hyperbole to be sure and the horse is well ahead of the carriage; but this smells a lot like Russell Wilson to Wisconsin for a Rose Bowl, the basketball version.
- Time – Kevin Parrom had a hellacious 2011-12 that he’s asked to not be asked about. We all know the story by now so now let’s celebrate that we’ll get to see a tough, fun, and now healthy basketball player thrive as a senior.
- Padded Chairs – Nearly everyone sitting on one was a four-star recruit or better and is going to make these Wildcats the deepest team in the conference if not the country.
- 1988 – This year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of Arizona’s first Final Four and one of the greatest teams in school history. That ’88 squad went on to win a gaggle of NBA Championships and included Sean Elliott, Steve Kerr, Kenny Lofton, Jud Bucheler, Tom Tolbert, and others.
- Zeus – Not the Greek God but if Kaleb Tarczewski erupts in season one, he may be considered one in Tucson. Seven-footers are good old fashioned difference makers. A monster season will have Zeus in the lottery and the ‘Cats playing deep into the Madness.
- Maturity – There may be young pieces, but this is a mature group lead by senior statesman, Solomon Hill. At Pac-12 Media Day Hill let everyone know how he’s embraced his role as leader, teaching the mature-beyond-their-years underclassmen of sacrifice and passing on the parties that are always going to be there. A subtle jab at the departed Josiah Turner? Whatever it is, the Wildcats are focused on winning.