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Sunday, December 25, 2016
UCLA's sizzling start sparked by Lonzo Ball earns high marks for the Bruins' report card
Thanks, MalibouAL, for posting this article on BZ.
It's not straight-A's for Bryce Alford, Lonzo Ball and Co.,
but on the whole, it's a great report card.
dec 23, 2016 | matt norlander | cbs sportS | ARTICLE LINK
With its non-conference portion of the schedule complete, let's take a look at maybe the most entertaining team in America.
UCLA (13-0) has become so watchable, and because of this, the Bruins are also at the forefront of the national conversation for Final Four contenders. For the first time in a decade, UCLA fans can point to their team and confidently say that their Bruins have the goods to win a national title.
But why not look a little bit deeper into what they've done so far? Let's grade out the different facets of such a fascinating team. It's such a fun group, you'll enjoy looking at through the nooks and crannies of what makes Steve Alford's squad so good this season.
One of the easiest grades you could hand out. UCLA is averaging 120.3 points per 100 possessions, which amounts to the No. 2 offensive efficiency in America. UCLA, ranked second in the country, only -- appropriately -- trails No. 1 Villanova in points per possession. The Bruins averaged 95.8 points per game, second in the nation. Their 23.6 assists-per-game average is No. 1 in the country.
The offense is fluid, fun, filled with 3-point attempts and a bunch of guys who are shooting it well from deep. Did you know UCLA's five best players are all shooting 39 percent or better from 3? Yeah, and they're averaging 64 treys per guy at this stage. The team's 42.8-percent clip from deep bodes well for league play.
Then you've got Lonzo Ball creating new ways to find guys all the time. He's the leader of the offense, the freshman with the vision and anticipation. He fools the defense often, and often casually. Witness.
Alford's been able to take a philosophy on offense and perfectly blend it to the personnel he has. The Bruins were sub-.500 last year. Alford actually gave money back to the university. Now he's apparently unlocked all he's needed to in order to restore this program to glory.
So the Bruins are undefeated, have two future lotto picks in Ball and T.J. Leaf, and the team's as good as it's been since the Ben Howland Final Four years. They're a national title contender, and that's something nobody was saying in the preseason about the Bruins.
So much of this is because of the play of Ball and Leaf. Ball got the headlines in the first two weeks, but at this point Leaf is nearly as valuable and is putting up huge numbers. I think UCLA loses at Kentucky if Leaf isn't on the roster. He roasted the Wildcats in the game.
Leaf has won Pac-12 Player of the Week twice already.
Leaf is averaging team-high 17.5 points to go with 9.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 70 percent shooting from 2-point range. He also can step out and hit 3s, which he's doing at a 50-percent clip (15 for 30) this season. It's nuts. He's so versatile. Lottery pick, people.
We've written so much about Ball here already, too. His vision is tremendous. His shot is funky, but it works. Ball is averaging 13.7 points, 8.3 assists, 5.8 rebounds and 1.5 steals. He's big, savvy, aggressive and more athletic than he's been given credit for. Both he and Leaf have stepped in immediately and become top-15 players of talent and value in the sport. Remarkable.