UCLA vs. Indiana State: What to Watch

No. 13 UCLA opens its new stadium Friday night against Indiana State, a team picked because it was John Wooden’s only other coaching stop. The Sycamores return only one starter from a squad that went 8-10 in the Missouri Valley Conference. Here are some things to keep an eye on as the Bruins face an opponent that will provide more symbolism than challenges.

The new offense
Under Ben Howland, UCLA has topped 68 possessions per game just once: the 2004-05 season, when a Dijon Thompson-led squad averaged 71.6 per game, good for third in the Pac-10 and a first-round NCAA exit. The next four seasons were classic Howland half-court offense. The Bruins averaged between 63.5 and 66.1 possessions a game (ranking around seventh in the conference) but used them well. From 2005-09, UCLA ranked second, third, first and first in offensive efficiency.

The tempo stayed the same from 2009-10 on, but the system started to fail. The Bruins lost four of five starters — including first-rounders Darren Collison and Jrue Holiday — and their production immediately dipped to 101.2 points per 100 possessions (eighth in Pac-10), subsequently missing the Big Dance in two of three seasons.

Enter 2012, with UCLA switching to an up-tempo, player-friendly attack. Kyle Anderson and Larry Drew II will both see time at the one, with the former manning a lot of forward duties as well. Both will be relied on to push the tempo, but the former is nicknamed “Slow-Mo” and the latter was benched at UNC in favor of Kendall Marshall. Howland has called Drew the team’s most indispensable player; he’s the only senior on the roster, and may be the only one who can defend opposing point guards. Anderson is a natural playmaker, but he’ll need to be dangerous off-ball too.

The Wear twins and Norman Powell make up the rest of Friday’s projected starting lineup. David and Travis, the team’s top returning scorers and rebounders, have dependable jump shots and are versatile — but not dominant — in the paint. From what Howland has said, Powell might be the team’s most improved player. He’s definitely the most athletic option available, and UCLA will lean on him when it rests Drew.

The Larry Drew redemption tour
This week, Drew called the past 20 months of his life a roller-coaster ride — which may be an understatement. UCLA’s new guard transferred out of UNC last February in controversial fashion, leaving Chapel Hill after he lost his starting job to Kendall Marshall.

Drew’s stats in his final season at North Carolina weren’t exactly eye-popping, averaging 4.4 points and 3.9 assists through 21 games. That Marshall ended up reviving the Tar Heels’ offense didn’t help Drew’s reputation as pouty and spoiled. The Encino native now plays the role of the prodigal son returned. Entering the season with plenty to prove makes him a perfect emotional match with his new program.

The second unit
With Shabazz Muhammad (NCAA, shoulder) and Tyler Lamb (knee) both sidelined, the Bruins lack of depth is concerning especially as they transition to a faster offense. Josh Smith is saying all the right things — feeling better conditioned, no problem backing up Wear twins, reminding everyone not to let LMU-type teams sneak up like last year — but the 6-foot-10 center needs to start fulfilling his massive potential. The former all-conference freshman has incredibly soft hands, and will be dangerous in the low post if he can endure the constant running likely required of him.

Tony Parker is talented, but raw, and Jordan Adams could be the team’s best outside shooter. Adams did lose to Kari Korver in the Pauley Madness 3-point contest, but there’s little shame being bested by those genes.

Shabazz Muhammad
Everyone on the team is playing the NCAA waiting game right now, but at least Muhammad’s health isn’t a big question mark. He’s day to day since straining his shoulder on Oct. 25, and could be in uniform for opening night. If so, he’ll draw plenty of eyeballs even if he isn’t eligible; rarely will warm-up dunks be so tantalizing.

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  • Ucla will not be more up-tempo. Howland won’t allow it.

    • bruinbiochem06

      There’s been practice reports where Howland has been quoted saying “push it! push it!” This team will be more up-tempo!

      • Reformed Droog

        Maybe he was singing Salt-N-Pepa?

        • psifi

          Droog i snorted on that…{does ben do the dougie?}

  • Bob

    Jack, in your story on UCLA’s secondary, you said Hester leads the team with 4 INTs. This is factually incorrect. It is Sheldon Price who leads the team with 4 INTs.

  • George B

    Jack! These are facts all Bruin fans know about already or are not much interested in… I know you are doing your best to catch up on all the facts and figures but blog posts don’t need to be this long with things which we mostly know about, like trying to be an up-tempo team this year. For example, can’t you scoop us on who might be attending among former Bruins? I’m sure there are some rumors floating which you can pick up. Or what time we should be there for certain events before the game, tips about the best parking spots, etc. Short tidbits about things not normally reported by others already would be better.

    OK I’ll the be the first to give you a reprieve and start all over with us. First of all, can you introduce yourself with a self intro blog post? Maybe something about your sports writing background, how you got this job, your aspirations, your hobbies, etc.? Plus can you give us a idea of how you plan to format this blog going forward? I don’t mind giving you time to catch up but are you planning on Weekly Q&A posts like the others have done? This will definitely give you an idea of what the readers want to know.

    I’m also going to make some suggestions which I hope you take into consideration and make them your own. And I hope others here make suggestions here as well in a simple bullet format like this so Jack can see what we all would like to see.

    1) UCLA athlete of the week – introduce 1 athlete from any sport who did well this past week. We all want to know about the other sports besides BB and FB, but more importantly about our fellow Bruins and who they are, their goals and ambitions, their reason for picking UCLA. Just 2-3 short paragraphs will do. You know all their friends and family are going to be re-tweeting and facebooking this post link everywhere and bringing attention to this blog.

    2) UCLA cheerleader of the week – everyone of my friends who did not go to UCLA (especially from SC) are envious of the great looking cheerleaders we have. So why not introduce them one by one. I know each of them are not just beautiful/handsome, but also very good student athletes with great character and it would be nice to feature them in a classy way. Not to mention that you will probably increase readership by 100 fold. (Think revenues for DN. BTW I’m a professional marketing consultant for Fortune 500 companies.)

    3) UCLA Alumni Athlete update – a where are they now look at our former prominent athletes. If we know this, we can support them (if they are with a sports team now) by attending their games. Or maybe work with them in the business world, if they are nearby. For example, I worked with former BB player Gary Maloncon after finding out from a friend that he was living in OC right next to my city and was in the marketing field. How many of us know that 3 BB players (JR Henderson, Charles Obannon and Alfred Aboya) and maybe more are pros in Japan and speak Japanese too? I heard JR is fluent and is now a Japanese citizen…wow! I also met Cade McNown at a Starbucks in Newport Beach once since he worked nearby my office. I’d like to know where everyone else is these days and those are interesting facts I would enjoy reading about and I don’t see this done elsewhere.

    Jack, we are all devout Bruin fans here that look for information we can’t get elsewhere. That’s what made this blog so great in the past! We need that back from you or else we will need to go the the dreaded BN or others for this type of info. Please, give us what we would like to see here or else this will become a dead place soon.

    • cliq

      I’m down with #1… at least getting to know the players better would be great. As for #2… let’s not go turning this blog into what Scott Wolf used to do. And #3… less important right now compared to Football coverage and Basketball starting.

      • Bruinbot

        Cheerleader of the week? Please tell me this blog has not fallen that far. You’ll lose your female readership, myself included, if you go there.

        • George B

          OK, but this the type of feedback which is useful for Jack to see. So I would welcome these opinions if only Jack was the one asking. Plus, on the point about cheerleaders, I didn’t mean to offend the women. I did say “handsome” too so I meant men cheerleaders as well and I did mean to portray them as well rounded student athletes that deserve some recognition as they help our school with great spirit and enthusiasm and not what Wolf was doing with his obsessions with them. And we can’t deny that they are the National Champs when it comes to popularity among all college cheerleaders these days.

          Anyway, I just want to see this blog be about being different from all the other useless facts and figures we see elsewhere. That’s what made Dohn so great. Gold was OK, especially in the beginning until some tragic things happened in his life and I really liked Melendez’ hustle and listening to feedback of his readers. The general consensus here is that Jack needs to do more so I’m just suggesting a few things to start things off. I hope more of you post some suggestions for him to consider.