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Posts Tagged ‘Ben Howland’

One Less Big Man

Posted by naterb on December 2, 2009

If things weren’t bad enough for the Bruins this season, breaking news makes the teams outlook even worse.

Forward/Center Drew Gordon will be transferring away from UCLA at the winter break, and is no longer a part of the Bruins team. This, apparently is by mutual agreement.

“After several discussions with Drew, we both have decided that it is in the best interests of our program and Drew that he continues his career at another school.” -Ben Howland

Some may take this as a sign of the rats jumping ship from a Bruins team that has struggled immensely already this season. That is wrong on two accounts. First, the Bruins are likely to turn the season around, and secondly this wasn’t a surprise to Howland and Co. which means that it was an internal issue.

According to Andy Katz over at ESPN, the issue was Gordon’s attitude being viewed as “detrimental” to the team.” I don’t see any other explanation for the departure, and Gordon clearly wasn’t happy with things in UCLA – particularly Ben Howland.

At this point, Gordon has not announced his destination, though San Diego State has been rumored. I believe it would be more likely he would wind up at UNLV who are in desperate need of inside rebounding presence. One way or another, it could be interesting to see where Gordon winds up – but I doubt it except for the team that gets him.

As for the Bruins, they now face replacing their third-leading scorer (11.2) and second-leading rebounder (5.3). That is a big hole to fill, and one that could have given them an advantage in a conference that is thin in the middle.

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Dragovic returns…

Posted by naterb on November 29, 2009

I believe I’ve already made it clear how poor UCLA’s start is, and after UCLA’s 47-74 drubbing at the hands of Portland things looked even worse. Then the following night, the Bruins showed signs of life by pushing Butler to the final minute.  So what’s with the Jekyll & Hyde act that the Bruins only wins are against Cal State-Bakersfield and Pepperdine? Simply put, it’s the senior leadership they receive from Nikolai Dragovic.

Dragovic anchors a ridiculously young team that has too much potential and not enough experience to make a whole lot of noise this season. Unfortunately, the Bruins have floundered without Dragovic in the lineup. Which is why Howland brought Dragovic back despite the investigation into his October altercation being incomplete – a decision I completely disagree with for the sake of the integrity of the team. Sure, Dragovic scored 14 and led the Bruins against Butler, and will recapture his starting role in the near future. But in an age of college basketball that has more controversy than not, is it really worth it for the Bruins to risk it simply for a few wins until their freshman can catch up, especially when other schools are seeing investigations of this nature through before making decisions?

Howland is making a huge mistake. Dragovic has already been accused once, but his live-in girlfriend opted not to pursue charges. And while the rumor is that Dragovic was the victim, and not the attacker in the most recent incident, it doesn’t change the fact that Dragovic wasn’t smart enough to just walk away, report it to security, or take numerous other avenues. Garland Judkins was effectively suspended for the year under Russ Pennell for the same type of decision.

It’s a shame really, that Howland after cherrishing so much success over the past few years is utterly incapable of enduring a few weeks or even a whole season without compromising the integrity of the program.

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UCLA loses despite win

Posted by naterb on November 21, 2009

Final 1 2 T
Cal State Bakersfield (1-2) 35 29 64
UCLA (1-1) « 35 40 75
Dragovic is just criminal. Photo from the L.A. Times

Just Criminal. photo from: L.A. Times

Despite winning 75-65 to Cal State Bakersfield, UCLA suffered a huge setback Friday when senior forward Nikola Dragovic was arrested for an “incident” last month, and consequently suspended Friday.

And since this isn’t the first time Dragovic has been in trouble, the suspension is sure to last longer than just a single game against Cal State-Bakersfield. The question is: how long will the Bruins only returning starter be out? According to Howland, that will be determined as more information becomes available. Read the rest of this entry »

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PAC-10 Power Rankings: Week 8

Posted by naterb on February 23, 2009

 

Despite four of the top five teams taking losses this week, there is no movement in the top of the conference. It looks to me like there won’t be much more movement amongst these teams the rest of the way out. Could be a few position switches (ASU/UW for example), but I wouldn’t expect anymore 2-spot jumps or drops the rest of the way out.

 

  1. Arizona State (E) – They’ve won five straight including wins over UCLA, USC, and breaking Arizona’s 7-game win streak. They’ll be tough to stop from here on out.
  2. Washington (E) – Despite the loss to UCLA last week, they’re still in sole possession (by a half game) of the best conference record and have a chance to separate themselves further with ASU coming to town this weekend.
  3. UCLA (E) – Defeating Washington at home was nice, but the Bruins are struggling and a home loss against Washington State shows it. They’re falling fast and I wonder if Ben Howland can turn ‘em back around.
  4. Arizona (E) – A two-point loss to Arizona State on the road is nothing to frown upon. They’ve been playing well over the past four weeks and are still one of the hottest teams in the conference.
  5. CAL (E) – A loss to Oregon State isn’t as bad as we thought, but CAL has suffered that fate twice this year. They’re in the same boat as UCLA with the wheels starting to come off down the stretch.
  6. Oregon State (+2) – A season sweep of CAL and a winning record against the bottom half of the conference earns them this spot. Imagine what they could do with USC type of talent.
  7. USC (-1)  The Trojans have struggled all year long, but it keeps getting worse. They haven’t won back-to-back games in the past four weeks. They’ve fallen apart in the second half of conference play.
  8. Washington State(+1)  That was a nice win for the Cougars over UCLA this week – and on the road no less. Could they finally be gelling as a team and producing at the level we’ve become accustomed to with Bennett Ball the past few years or was this simply a flash in the pan?
  9. Stanford (-2)– Okay, I admit it… I screwed up on these guys last week. They drop not just because of their loss to Oregon, but lets face it – their frontcourt is non-existent and their backcourt is average at best. They haven’t won two games in a week since before conference play began.
  10. Oregon (E)– The Ducks have been in the basement of the PAC-10 Power Rankings almost all season long. Unfortunately the only way out of it is to sweep their final three games and have Stanford get swept. Is Ernie Kent on the way out?

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Bloggin' PAC-10

Posted by naterb on January 20, 2009

Alright, because of the Wednesday night game, I’m having to bump up a few of things to make sure that I get the Game Preview in a day early. So today I’ve already posted my Player of the Week Award, I’ve got the PAC-10 Blogs Check-in here, and hopefully I’ll have the Game Preview up first thing in the morning at the very latest.

National View

Brackettville ’09 currently has five PAC-10 teams heading to the big dance in March. As expected, Arizona isn’t one of them. Check out who made the cut and where they’re projected to be heading at Brackettville ’09.

Power Rankings

Power Rankings: Addicted to Quack has a weekly Power-Rankings poll over on SB Nation. Each week they receive votes, tally the votes and produce a very slick looking poll. Because it is a polled Power Rankings it has the ability to be less bias, but you’ll see some discrepancies from week to week. Check out Addicted to Quacks Power Ranking Poll. . The Coug Center is also a part of the SB Nation and you can see their ballot here.

Oregon

Addicted to Quack makes its second appearance on this week’s PAC-10 blog reviews. This time they’ve narrowed their focus and recapped the Oregon vs. Washington State game. Now, if you think that you’ve been hard on the Ducks, just wait. Sometimes the most avid fans make the toughest critics, and Addicted to Quack does just that.

On thing that has to come into question for the Ducks – which it has for many Ducks’ fans already – is how much longer can they tolerate Ernie Kent. Kent is the most tenured active coach in the PAC-10 today. Montgomery doesn’t count because he’s just getting back…. But you get the point. Anyhow, The Bleacher Report says that Ernie Kent’s clock is ticking – frankly, I think they’re right. Read the rest of this entry »

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Game Preview: Arizona @ UCLA

Posted by naterb on January 14, 2009

tipoff“You can beat UCLA in Pauley Pavilion.” Those are the words that Assistant Coach Mike Dunlap has for the Wildcats every day during practice. The ‘Cats are hearing the message and by all accounts appear to be buying into it. UCLA has heard Dunlap’s message as well, and are preparing for Arizona’s best shot, even if the Bruins’ fans aren’t.

 It’s been nearly three years since the Wildcats beat the Bruins – and it just so happened the last win came at Pauley Pavilion. Since that February game in 2005, both teams have had complete roster turnovers with the exception of UCLA’s Josh Shipp. That shows just how dominant the Bruins have been over Arizona the past few years. As an Arizona fan, that’s a tough pill to swallow.

So after seven straight games and almost three years, what is it going to take to make Dunlap’s words a reality? Let’s cover the obvious fan retorts- UCLA injuries, miracles, a lucky night, UCLA looking past Arizona, and any other number of would-be post-game excuses would all be pathetic reasons for victory at Pauley. But I don’t think that’s what Dunlap and the Wildcats have in mind. So we’ll break down UCLA’s counterparts to Arizona, followed by the Keys to the Game.

Point Guard: Nic Wise vs. Darren Collison

Collison is the better guard here, hands down. Collison is a lightning quick point guard with great court vision, the ability to shoot the long jumper or create his own shot, and plays very smart basketball. Collison is only 6-0 (2-inches taller than Wise) but is an aggressive defender with long arms that menace point guards into poor decisions.

Nic Wise was not the primary point guard for Arizona last season, and struggled to find his niche under Kevin O’Neill while Jerryd Bayless was in the game. Wise, while not known for his on-ball defense, has shown improvement and is a master at dropping down into the paint to strip the big men on the low block. While Wise has shown improvement in his decision making and shot selection over the course of the year, he still has a long way to go to finding that sweet spot between being aggressive and allowing the game to come to him. As a playmaker and the floor general, that is a key element of his game that the Wildcats need him to pick up on.

Last Year: Nic Wise played 1 game with 12 points, 2 assists, and 3 turnovers

Darren Collison averaged 14 points, 4 assists, 2 turnovers in two games against Arizona, but had 16 points, 7 assists, and 1 turnover while at Pauley.

Shooting Guard: Kyle Fogg vs. Jrue Holiday

Freshman vs. Freshman here. Fogg and Holiday have both become the best on-ball defenders their respective teams have to offer. Holiday is the more athletic of the two and takes defensive challenges personally. In fact, he even asked to guard DeMar DeRozan in the USC game after DeRozan got off to a good start. Subsequently DeRozan only scored five more points with Holiday on him. Chances are that mentality will find Holiday guarding Chase Budinger instead, with Shipp defending Fogg.

Holiday, unlike Fogg, is an offensive threat. He has a decent long-range shot and can work his way to the rim. Fogg, however, can shoot long range but has been apprehensive about taking the open look far too frequently. Credit Fogg, however, for continually showing growth in every area of his game, and finding ways to score and collect loose balls.

Small Forward: Chase Budinger vs. Josh Shipp

Shipp is a lean athletic shooting guard, that like all of Howland’s players, is trademarked by in-your-face defense. Shipp is an explosive player who has the capability of dropping 20 points on a team that allows him to get into a nice flow. Shipp has great career numbers against the ‘Cats averaging 13.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 2 steals each contest. Shipp likes to get out into the open court and run in transition, so a big part of stopping him will be stopping transition.

Budinger isn’t nearly as talented defensively as Shipp is, but he is the more explosive player. If Budinger is assertive on the offensive end he becomes difficult for anybody to guard. Since the probability of Holiday guarding Budinger is pretty high, the ‘Cats will need to look to find Budinger slashing to the bucket and posting up the smaller Holiday. Budinger is due for a big game against a tough opponent this year, and it would be great to see him get it against a team that he is still winless against in his collegiate career. My train of thought has always been that Budinger doesn’t show up to play against the Bruins’ aggressive defense – but I crunched his career numbers and was surprised at what I saw.

Budinger’s Stat Line: 14 ppg, 40% fg, 5.5 rebounds, 2.75 assists, 2.75 turnovers

Power Forward: Jamelle Horne vs. Nikola Dragovic

James Keefe has been the typical starter for the Bruins this season, in part because Howland considered him the better defender. But Howland said that Dragovic has closed that defensive gap, and is a bigger offensive threat so he’ll get his second start of the season against Arizona. Dragovic has performed well his previous two games, and has filled the role player spot well. Dragovic has the capability of knocking down the occasional three-pointer, but considering he only shoots 25% from beyond the arc, Horne should let him make one before stepping out on him.

Jamelle Horne is the more athletic of the two players, and plays a lot bigger than his 6’7” frame would indicate. Horne did not have an opportunity for significant minutes against UCLA under Kevin O’Neill a year ago. So Horne’s athleticism and hustle may prove to be an ace in the hole for the ‘Cats.

Center: Jordan Hill vs. Alfred Aboya

Aboya is a thug on the inside. He provided a different defensive look for UCLA last year when they would move Kevin Love off of Hill. This year, the change in personnel guarding Hill won’t make as much of an impact. Hill is a superior interior player than any Bruin. Hill will need to play under control and avoid offensive fouls, and picking up tacky fouls when trying to block shots of penetrating guards.

Aboya is a tough defender and a decent shot blocker for UCLA, but his big threat is junk stats. Aboya hustles for loose balls and rebounds, he’s very active on the offensive glass, and like Jamelle Horne, can pick up junk stats with some regularity.

The Bench:

UCLA has a much deeper bench than the Wildcats, and can get productive minutes from three players off the bench, and two more can provide mistake free minutes to help the Bruins starters get rested. The key bench players for the Bruins are Michael Roll and James Keefe.

Roll is an improved version of Zane Johnson. He can shoot the three, and has the tendency of finding himself open around the elbow or baseline with good looks. Roll won’t impress you with his athleticism or rebounding, but he’s a smart player with a nice stroke.

Keefe isn’t much of an offensive threat, but expect to see him come in to log some defensive minutes against Jordan Hill. Keefe is a solid defender, but will likely struggle against the taller, more athletic Hill.

Arizona’s bench has been iffy at best this season. We’ve seen erratic production from Judkins and Lavendar. Zane Johnson has stepped up his game and become more aggressive the past few games, and a continuing that effort and results will be vital for Arizona if they want to pull of the road win at Pauley.

Injuries:

Arizona – None

UCLA – Malcolm Lee, another key reserve for UCLA, is listed as probable. Freshman center J’Mison Morgan is doubtful

Head to Head:

UCLA is deeper, more athletic, and better defensive team that Arizona is. But they aren’t infallible, and they aren’t as good as they’ve been the previous 2 years. The ‘Cats, although not as talented as last year, are playing better team basketball and when things are going well believe they have a shot against anybody. It won’t be easy to pull off a road win in Pauley against a great team like UCLA, but it isn’t unrealistic to think they can do it.

 

Head-to-Head

Head-to-Head

Keys to the Game:

  1. Secure the Package: UCLA is averaging over 9 steals a game behind their in-your-face perimeter defense. The ‘Cats need to play smart, controlled basketball and limit their mistakes because they won’t be able to keep up with UCLA for 40 minutes of transition basketball.
    Projected Need: Limit turnovers to 12 or fewer, while forcing UCLA into at least 10.
  2. Limit Collison: Collison is the drive train for this UCLA offense. If they can limit his ability to pass and find open teammates the ‘Cats will be headed in the right direction. Just as with the Gonzaga game, point guard play is going to be key.
    Projected Need: Limit Collison to 5 or fewer assists, while forcing him into 3 or more turnovers.
  3. Break-out Budinger: Budinger has been handcuffed the past few games, and more importantly against defenses tailored to limit him. Budinger has decent numbers against ULA with one bad game, and one great game to show for his two years. Coming off the series against the Oregon Schools, Budinger appears to be heading out of his slump and due for a big game in the near future.
    Projected Needs: Budinger – 16+ points, 45 FG%, 3 3-pointers, 3 assists, 2 or fewer turnovers.
  4. Exploit the Advantage: Jordan Hill has no match to be found on UCLA’s roster. But, as with Oregon, perimeter defense can limit the touches that Hill gets. The ‘Cats need to find Hill on the low block or within 8 feet throughout the game.
    Projected Needs: Hill – 18+ points, 35 minutes playing time, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks, 75% FT%.
  5. Four through Six: Arizona needs Jamelle Horne, Kyle Fogg, and Zane Johnson each to step up big in this game. Between them they need to apply defensive pressure, scrap for loose balls, steal some rebounds, and do all those intangibles you expect from role players. The needed impact of the role players in this game can not be understated, as they are likely the most vital part of Arizona’s upset hopes. If they can step up big, Arizona has a honest chance, if they don’t it could prove to be a long night for the ‘Cats.
    Projected Needs: Horne, Fogg, Johnson combined – 24 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, less than 5 turnovers.

Posted in Arizona Wildcats, Game Preview, NCAA Basketball, PAC-10 Basketball | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »