For their third Pac-12 game, the Beavers will take on the UCLA Bruins. The Bruins are in a transitional stage, having just recently fired head coach Steve Alford. We reached out to Bruins Nation to find out how the team is doing, and boy did they deliver. Here’s responses from DCBruins, AnteatersandBruins, markybcool, orlandobruin, and Mark Schipper.
- The Steve Alford era is done. It seemed like this had been a long time coming, and I’m sure many Bruins fans are ecstatic. How has the interim coaching staff done so far in the short time since Alford has left?
DCBruins: About as well as can be expected. Bartow has the team playing harder. He has shook up the lineups from Alford to have better combinations. We are getting closer to our potential, but Cal and Stanford are bad teams.
AnteatersandBruins: It looks like new life has been breathed into the team, if anything because there is a new face calling the shots. But they obviously needed a change in leadership as you can see an overall change in attitude amongst the team members.
Markybcool: There was only one way up from where the team was at after the Liberty game. The team was lifeless and lost in the Liberty game, and since that game Bartow has instilled some life in the team. Bartow is preaching tempo and pace with this team, and wants them to utilize their length and athletic ability to force turnovers and get out and run.
orlandobruin: UCLA has played Stanford and UC Berkeley at home since Alford left. And, although the Bruins looked better in both games, neither of schools will be vying for the PAC 12 crown this season. That having been said, the Bruins seemed to play with more intensity and, credit to Coach Bartow, seem to be trying to play to UCLA’s strengths which, as Markybcool pointed out, are length and athleticism. I’ll give Coach Bartow a B so far.
Mark Schipper: Played a lot better immediately. Sometimes a shock like that makes everyone realize they could do more. But from putting on a full-court press, to using the team’s length to its advantage, playing some of the better young players and bringing people to the bench to check their head space before getting them back in, a lot of it is what many called for Alford to do, but of course he didn’t. It looks like basketball is fun again.
2. Alford was famous for getting talented players to under-perform. Is there anyone who you think will benefit most from a changing of the guard?
DCBruins: Two players. Moses Brown and David Singleton. Brown is a seven foot two force of nature and an athlete. His shooting range is 2 feet and his post up game is lacking. Never mind, he still makes things happen on defense and is a terror on the offensive boards. Alford frequently benched him for the more polished Cody Riley. Singleton has two games with Bartow and both were career highs. Singleton is the best shooter on the team and a hard worker. Just not the athlete of the guys in front of him.
AnteatersandBruins: They’re all going to benefit in some way, but mainly because Alford has a history of making bad decisions and benching players that deserve playing time (see: Zach LaVine). You’ve got guys that can come off the bench and bigs like Alex Olesinski that need time to develop, but end up ignored for more skilled players.
Markybcool: I agree that one of the players might be David Singleton. Bartow wants lay-ups or three point shots with this team, and it’s pretty clear that Singleton is the Bruins best long range shooter. His ability to spread the floor while also being pretty active on defense might mean more playing time for Singleton.
orlandobruin: Brown and Singleton are the obvious answers, but I am going to go in a different direction and say Jaylen Hands. He often underperformed while Alford was coach and consistency was often a big issue. Hopefully, Hands can be more consistent going forward under a new Coach.
Mark Schipper: It could be everyone, but I have a few players that come to mind. I hope Jaylen Hands is put on a shorter leash. Alford had given him a green light to do whatever he wanted, and it wasn’t working. I’m hoping he’s called to the bench more to get refocused and also made to better understand what his role is. I felt he was putting together an NBA reel and not playing with his teammates. David Singleton and Jules Bernard may begin progressing faster, too. They’re talented players, particularly Singleton as a shooter.
3. From the stats it looks like Kris Wilkes is the star of the show for UCLA. What kind of game does he play, and do you think the Beavers can shut him down?
DCBruins: Kris Wilkes is not the key. That is Jaylen Hands. Wilkes is the leading scorer. In a sense it is like playing Kobe Bryant. You want to make him a volume scorer. He is going to score, you just want to make him shoot a lot to get those points. At the end of the game you don’t care if he has 18 points but we win if that is 18 points on 12 shots and you win if that is on 18 shots.
AnteatersandBruins: Wilkes is a good distraction--you look at our stats board and he seems to be the guy to stop, but then you go down the list and see other players like Cody Riley and David Singleton that are shooting above .500 from outside the arc. If you concentrate on Wilkes and manage to shut him down, other players will catch you sleeping.
Markybcool: Wilkes’ game is one of a perimeter player that is not afraid to drive to the basket as well. He doesn’t ooze athletic ability, but his height allows him to get off his shot over players, and he can finish at the rim. The last few games he has started slowly and finished the second half strong. Wilkes has settled for a lot of outside shots this year and has actually shot pretty poorly so far, so while he is the leading scorer, he gets those points from volume.
orlandobruin: Wilkes is a scorer. Not a shooter, but a scorer. And, as Markybcool points out, he gets his points from volume. In 15 games, he has attempted 213 shots (more than 14 per game). That’s 50 more shots that the next player, Hands.
Mark Schipper: Wilkes is a streaky player. I hope he’s more invigorated to play on the defensive end. He’s long and can be an all-courts scorer. He looks to shoot the three ball. He likes to slash. He likes getting out and running. If he’s playing in the rhythm of an offense he can pretty much do anything a good wing is called on to do.
4. With Gligorije Rakocevic (you can just say Big G) returning from injury, and Kylor Kelley emerging as a strong contributor, the Beavers have suddenly gotten a lot bigger. Can you tell us a bit about the big men they’ll be facing?
DCBruins: UCLA is blessed with a lot of good big men. I talked about Moses above but Cody Riley is actually the best passer of the bigs and a good outside shooter. He is also the thickest and can do it all, it’s just Brown can do somethings better than anyone else. Jalen Hill is more like Brown. Not refined but a good athlete. Hill is even more limited than Brown on offense and looks to pass first. But UCLA is not done. Chris Smith, although listed as a guard, is the starting four. Smith has a great body and potential, sometimes shoots bad from the outside but is really tough for a big to match up against as he can drive the ball real well. In short, we have a lot of good big men for this game.
AnteatersandBruins: Jalen Hill is my favorite big buy. He’s not at the top of the stats board but he’s athletic and shares the ball (DC says he looks to pass first--I prefer to call it “sharing”). He reminds me of a puppy growing into his feet--not quite sure yet but will be a force when he’s at the top of his game. I’m glad he came back this year and I’m even more glad that he’ll have the benefit of another coach. Moses Brown is of course an obvious choice for his skill--he’s a complete player and will develop nicely if we can get him to stick around.
Markybcool: UCLA is blessed with some big men this year, as Brown, Riley, Hill, and returning Alex Olesinski definitely provide the Bruins with multiple looks. Without rehashing what has already been mentioned, Cody Riley is the Bruin bigman that seems to have the most well-rounded skill set of all of the UCLA bigs.
orlandobruin: Moses Brown is the best pure talent at center for UCLA in a long time. But he is raw. Cody Riley missed all of last year due to the China incident, but has been solid, averaging 5.2 rebounds a game in just under 20 minutes played per game. Jalen Hill’s rebounding numbers are even better, averaging 6.1 per game in just over 18 minutes played per game. Hill is strong and athletic.
Mark Schipper: Moses Brown is very tall and very long. He’s athletic and aggressive and loves to play. He’s a bit like a young giraffe right now in that his legs aren’t totally under him. He’s working on his footwork. Very young and raw but by his sheer size and athleticism a force. Jaylen Hill, Chris Smith, and Cody Riley are all under construction as basketball players. Night to night they’re still in a phase where you can’t be sure what you’re going to get. Athletic players but nothing to set your watch to, yet.
5. Finally, give us your prediction for the game.
DCBruins: Ugh. This is so hard to do before the Oregon game. I will have a good idea after that game of how we will respond on the road. I guess I’ll go 79-74 UCLA. Not a lot of confidence though.
AnteatersandBruins: I’m going with UCLA on this one--we’re on a warm streak (not hot yet) and I think we’ll take the W. But it won’t be without a fight as our last two opponents weren’t exactly stellar examples of basketball teams. But we’ve cut our teeth on them and we’re ready for someone tougher.
Markybcool: UCLA is the better team with the better talent, regardless of how the Oregon games goes, the UCLA Bruins will take the Beavers very seriously, and should be able to pull out a victory.
orlandobruin: Here’s a fun fact: other than the 2016-17 season in which Lonzo Ball led UCLA to a 31-5 record, the UCLA Bruins have not swept a PAC 12 road series since Ben Howland was coach in 2012-13. Although I think that will change this season, I am not sure that this is the weekend where it will happen. My prediction for the weekend: UCLA wins one and loses one. We’ll know which is which later tonight.
Mark Schipper: I don’t know but I want to see UCLA play hard, play smart, and play together. I want to see them run what they’re working on in practice and try to get better. I can live with any result if there’s effort and an attempt at execution. Funny things seem to happen up in Corvallis.
Many thanks to our colleagues over at Bruins Nation. We’ll see how things go on Sunday.