Here are the answers from this week’s Q&A. I consolidated a few questions that were similar.
Is the press giving Ben Howland a pass on his unusual overuse of the Wear twins? I have never heard the question put directly to in a postgame presser.
Fair point, but UCLA really doesn’t have any other frontcourt options right now — or even just options, period, given the presence of just eight scholarship players. Tony Parker is the one everyone wants to see, but he’s been sidelined by back spasms and a sprained ankle. He also doesn’t look like he’s exactly in tip-top shape, and turned the ball over four times in his first dozen minutes or so against CSU San Marcos. But yes, the Wears get abused routinely on defense and have an offensive repertoire that consists of a midrange jumper and the odd layup.
Is Ben Howland feeling any real heat from the athletic department? What do you believe needs to be the minimum results for this year’s team in order for Howland to return as coach after this season?
I’d be surprised if he gets axed midseason. Barring a fairly dramatic turnaround, I’d be equally surprised if he’s still around by the end of April. A Sweet Sixteen probably keeps him safe, but that looks unlikely at this point. Even a second-round exit may suffice if UCLA has a promising late-season surge and runs up against a team that plays out of its mind. (Not counting First Four as a “round.”)
What are the chances of Anthony Barr and Xavier Su’a-Filo leaving?
Anthony Barr is probably gone. Another season would help him learn the nuances of the position more, but he can’t help his stock significantly by coming back. Declaring for next spring also cuts down on the amount of time scouts have to nitpick; with just one season of film on him at outside linebacker, they can focus on his tantalizing potential. Similar thinking went on with Jason Pierre-Paul coming out of South Florida, though Barr isn’t the same level of athletic freak. There’s also injury risk in returning.
Xavier Su’a-Filo should stay another year. He was away from football for two years on his Mormon mission in Alabama and Florida, and needed the spring to get back in shape and shake the rust off. He can only help himself with another year in this offense, even if he’s already an All-Pac-12 first teamer. He’d likely enjoy spending two uninterrupted years on campus too.
Any assistants rumored to be leaving? Who are most sought after? Which ones will we have to fight to keep?
Noel Mazzone is the hot ticket right now, especially with the Bruins’ offense commanding most of the attention in this year’s turnaround. (And offenses do sell. See Cal biting on Louisiana Tech’s Sonny Dykes despite his being anathema toward defense.) Mazzone is also no stranger to switching jobs, and a head coaching gig might be hard to resist after being a career-long assistant. Can’t see him bolting for another OC spot though.
Assuming Damien Thigpen is healthy by next fall, who are the presumptive No. 2 and No. 3 running backs? Could we have used Malcolm Jones next year or would he have received limited time on the field again?
UCLA really, really needs Thigpen to be healthy. No one else on the roster is close to his level right now, which means it’s essentially open competition for backup minutes. Jordon James hasn’t done anything impressive this year, so Steven Manfro could move past him on the depth chart by fall. I’m interested to see what Craig Lee does in camp as a true freshman, but he’ll obviously have inexperience working against him. Having Malcolm Jones wouldn’t hurt, but he was more of a goal-line back anyway — not someone that would fill in seamlessly with Thigpen on the bench.
Why did Joshua Smith really leave? Academics? Too much pot?
It’s not fun seeing your minutes dip year after year and hearing everyone tell you how fat you are all the time — even if a lot of that was his own fault. The weight issue was a symptom of overall lack of discipline. Ben Howland at times gave him too much of a leash in the past due to his talent, and by this year it was too late to set him straight. I’d love to see him get his act together somewhere else, but I doubt that will happen.
Pac 12 Championship question: Did both teams change their shoes/cleats during halftime? Neither team seemed to have the same slipping issues in the second half. Assuming that was due to shoe changes; why didn’t the teams try to make some changes in the first half? Presumably, you could side-line fix a couple of players and gain advantage over the still slipping opponent.
I don’t believe either team changed anything major in regard to footwear. Maybe swapped on some clean ones or wiped their dirty ones down a bit. I also remember players still slipping about the same amount in the second half, or at least not noticeably less. In-game shoe swapping also seems like it could potentially lead to substitution penalties, or at least get players focusing on the game conditions a little too much. Valid idea if the execution’s there though.