History says UCLA doomed by defense, but no precedent exists for its offense

No team in the last 10 years has made the Final Four with an adjusted defensive efficiency ranking worse than 88th, per kenpom.com. UCLA ranks 117th.

The UCLA basketball team’s offense, which will probably be the most efficient in the country wire-to-wire this season, was roundly celebrated for the first 20 games of the season. The narrative shifted a month ago when two losses sparked widespread criticism of a defense that history strongly suggests isn’t good enough to make the Final Four, let alone win a national championship.

The next question in the cycle: Is UCLA’s offense so historically good, it can overcome deficiencies on defense this significant?

With just four games left in the regular season, beginning with tonight’s contest at Arizona State, the No. 5 Bruins have sustained some offensive numbers that require a deep dive into the archives for comparison.

READ: No. 5 UCLA to test defensive progress against Arizona State’s firepower

UCLA’s nation-leading field goal percentage (53.3%) is a mark that hasn’t been achieved since Duke’s 1992 national championship team shot 53.6 percent for the season. That was a Grant Hill-Christian Laettner-Bobby Hurley team making its third straight appearance in the national championship game. Pretty good company.

UCLA’s nation-leading 21.7 assists per game is the highest number in college basketball since 1991, when UNLV set the Division-I record with 24.7 on its way to the Final Four. That was Jerry Tarkanian’s Runnin’ Rebels squad featuring Larry Johnson, Greg Anthony and Stacey Augmon, all of whom went in the top 12 picks of the NBA draft later that year.

In relation to the field it will face in this season’s NCAA tournament, UCLA remains No. 1 in the country in scoring offense (92.3) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.8) and No. 2 in 3-point field goal percentage (42.1%).

Those offensive numbers, however, seemingly need to be historically special considering what UCLA must overcome. Continue reading

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UCLA football links: Jim Mora talks to Bruin Report Online

UCLA head coach Jim Mora watches over his team during football practice on the campus intramural field Wednesday, August 10, 2016, Westwood, CA. Photo by Steve McCrank/Staff Photographer)

Bruin Report Online’s Tracy Pierson spoke with UCLA head coach Jim Mora in the coach’s office about variety of topics, including the upcoming Under Armour contract, the impact of the new Wasserman Football Center and the revamped coaching staff.

He reaffirmed that given the opportunity, he “never wants to leave” UCLA. He had similar comments in January when he spoke to the media soon after hiring offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch.

Mora also accepted “all the blame” for last year’s offensive failure, saying that he “miscalculated,” especially how the scheme fit the personnel. He added that he did a “poor job” of executing the vision he had for the offense.

Other links:

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Lonzo Ball’s odd shooting form becoming a hot topic


The closer Lonzo Ball gets to June’s NBA draft, the more his unconventional shooting form is discussed. The list of stories about his shot is growing even before it will assuredly explode in the offseason.

Add the Wall Street Journal to the list. WSJ’s Ben Cohen wrote a piece today about The Ugly Beauty of Lonzo Ball’s shot. So far the consensus seems to be that Ball’s shot may look broken, but his shooting percentage suggests it doesn’t need fixing. CBS staff writer Matt Norlander came to that conclusion in his story a month ago.

I wrote an extensive piece two months ago about the evolution of Ball’s shot, including an experiment he conducted over the summer with conventional form while UCLA played a series of exhibition games against professional Australian teams. Ball’s conclusion? His old form works just fine. And he doesn’t plan to change it once he gets to the NBA. Continue reading

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Bryce Alford destined for top 5 on UCLA career scoring list

Bryce Alford is just 44 points from moving into fifth on UCLA’s career scoring list

Bryce Alford has long since carved out a place for himself in the UCLA record book. Now he’s just etching his name deeper.

The senior’s 26 points in UCLA’s blowout win against USC on Saturday moved him into seventh on UCLA’s all-time scoring list with 1,802. With four games left in the regular season in addition to any Pac-12 and NCAA tournament games, he is just 13 points behind Ed O’Bannon and 44 from surpassing Toby Bailey to move into the top five.

There are plenty of questions surrounding the coach’s son – and his father’s role in aiding totals that will land him among UCLA’s all-time greats – but he has managed to be consistently productive during all four years of his career. Should a guy who seemingly has little to no shot at the NBA have played ahead of current Minnesota Timberwolves 19-point per game scorer Zach LaVine during his lone season at UCLA? Should Alford be playing now ahead of defensively superior sophomore Aaron Holiday?

Alford said earlier this season he has learned to block out such noise. His detractors won’t like to hear that Alford has a decent chance to leave UCLA as the all-time leader in one significant offensive category. Continue reading

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UCLA basketball attendance bouncing back from lowest ever

UCLA is averaging 13,376 fans since conference play began. Pauley Pavilion’s capacity is 13,800


The UCLA basketball team’s attendance this season is its highest in 21 years. After it’s sixth sellout crowd of the season Saturday night witnessed a 102-70 win over USC, Pauley Pavilion is averaging 10,853 fans this season. The building’s capacity is 13,800.

The most impressive number is the 13,376 average attendance for conference games, nearly 5,000 more than UCLA averaged for Pac-12 games last season. UCLA coach Steve Alford said the crowd was the difference in UCLA winning its most significant home game of the season Feb. 9 against then-No. 5 Oregon.

A crowd of 13,659 on Saturday helped UCLA’s average this season surpass that of the 1997-98 team. UCLA’s best attendance since the season after John Wooden retired remains 11,872 fans in 1995-96, the season after the school’s most recent national championship.

Attendance dropped at an alarming rate each of the first two years of the Alford era, bottoming out at 7,711 two years ago, the lowest average in the history of Pauley Pavilion. That number went up to 8,073 last season, but the Bruins’ ranked 60th in the country in attendance for the second consecutive season. Continue reading

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