Thursday, November 10, 2016

OCR: UCLA men's basketball: 5 things to watch in 2016-17

 nov 8, 2016 | clay fowler | o.c. register | ARTICLE LINK

1. How will UCLA’s defense evolve?
If there is one glaring concern entering the season, it’s the defense. Of the two players expected to be their best defenders, one has been benched and the other had surgery on his meniscus Oct. 25 and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks.
UCLA’s offensive talent might be enough to carry the No. 16 Bruins to a successful season, but how much it comes at the expense of less-than-stellar play at the other end of the floor will be interesting to watch.
Sophomore Aaron Holiday, the team’s best perimeter defender, lost his starting spot to freshman Lonzo Ball, the No. 4 recruit in the country according to
Freshman Ike Anigbogu, who is 6-10 and 250 pounds, is the first true rim-protecting presence in Coach Steve Alford’s four seasons, but how Anigbogu will be integrated into a rotation after recovering from surgery on a small tear in his meniscus is unclear.
2. Will the freshmen alter Thomas Welsh’s role?
Welsh is accomplished enough to be one of just 20 in the country to land on a preseason award watch list for the nation’s best center.
But two of UCLA’s prized freshmen are 6-foot-10 and capable of anchoring a lineup as the tallest player on the court.
T.J. Leaf appears more offensively gifted than Welsh and Anigbogu is more of a defensive presence than the junior.
Leaf was’s No. 16 recruit in the country thanks to versatility that includes power inside and range outside. Anigbogu is the lone physical big man on the team and seems like UCLA’s most obvious answer to defensive concerns in the paint.
3. How will Bryce Alford and Lonzo Ball handle their leadership roles?
Bryce Alford is the most natural candidate to be UCLA’s vocal leader. He is a senior, has been a floor leader for two years and certainly knows the system seeing as his father is the one running it.
Ball, an NBA-caliber pass-first point guard, seems to possess a moxie toward which the Bruins may already be gravitating. He was the lone player in the middle of the pregame huddle exciting the team before UCLA’s Nov. 1 exhibition.
4. How fast will UCLA play?
Ball’s high school team averaged more than 98 points per game – in 32 minutes. UCLA coaches not only have declined to slow down their freshman point guard, they have encouraged him to play faster.
Transition points figure to come early and often and there may not be many limitations on 3-point shooting either. The first concern Steve Alford expressed after the Nov. 1 exhibition was about the lack of 3-point shots.
5. Will the offseason losses affect UCLA?
Forward Jonah Bolden, who emerged to start 11 games late last season, was the most significant of the three players who left UCLA in the offseason. The 6-10 junior would have provided experience in a frontcourt that will feature two freshmen, but he curiously left UCLA in July to turn pro.
Senior guard-forward Noah Allen transferred to Hawaii in May, but his minutes were reduced to less than seven per game last season.
Freshman guard Kobe Paras, a three-star recruit who withdrew from UCLA in June, likely wouldn’t have had an impact this season but it will be interesting to see how his career evolves at Creighton.
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