USC’s 84-76 defeat of UCLA on Jan. 25 at Galen Center is the Bruins’ most confounding loss of the season. Entering tonight’s rematch at Pauley Pavilion, the number of questions dwarf the number of answers for a game with high stakes for both teams. So, let’s just ask them.
READ: Preview story for No. 6 UCLA vs USC
The analytics movement promotes 3-pointers, but how does the Bruins’ coaching staff feel about Ball hoisting shots from 30 feet?
“As long as they’re going in,” Ball said, “they don’t really care.”
With 32 seconds left against Oregon, Ball’s step-back, contested 30-footer touched nothing but the bottom of the net. It was the decisive basket in UCLA’s 82-79 win a week ago over then-No. 5 Oregon.
Twenty-six games into his college career, Ball is shooting 43 percent from 3-point range. Steve Alford learned of Ball’s penchant for 3-pointers from NBA range and beyond while recruiting him at Chino Hills High School more than three years ago. The UCLA coach never tried to rein in his freshman point guard, said he never had a reason to.
“As far out as they can go to where they consistently make them, I’m fine with,” Alford said. “Lonzo has always had that ability. He’s kind of grown up in high school and he’s had that ability. Now you’ve got to pick and choose and I think he’s done a very good job this year of understanding the ebb and flow of the game of when to do that and when not to do it.”
Ball’s go-to shot with the clock winding down has been the deep, step-back 3-pointer. Continue reading
Five former UCLA football players received invites to his month’s NFL Combine, the NFL announced Wednesday: linebacker Jayon Brown, offensive lineman Conor McDermott, defensive end Takkarist McKinley, defensive back Fabian Moreau and defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes.
The combine begins Feb. 28 in Indianapolis with 330 total participants.
McKinley is a potential late first-round draft pick by many mock drafts after he led the Bruins in sacks and tackles for loss last year.
Vanderdoes was the only player to declare for the NFL draft early this season after the redshirt junior came back from an ACL injury and started 12 games with 29 tackles against constant double teams. Going into the Senior Bowl, Vanderdoes told Sports Illustrated that he had lost 20 pounds since the end of the UCLA season when he played at 340 pounds.
An impressive showing at the East-West Shrine Game helped Moreau boost his draft stock as NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said he was “not going to be shocked if Moreau goes in the first round.” He was the No. 47 prospect in Jeremiah’s top-50 list last week.
The recruits are signed and the next step is development.
Athlon Sports examined the relationship between recruiting class rankings and winning in the Pac-12 over the past five seasons, finding that, predictably, higher-ranked recruiting classes generally perform better on the field.
However, one of the underachievers was UCLA, which, based on 247Sports’ team composite rankings, had the second-best recruiting classes during the past five recruiting cycles (from 2013-17). But UCLA’s overall record in the past five seasons (2012-16) is 41-24 (0.631) and ranks fifth in the conference.
Below is a chart plotting the recruiting rankings in the Pac-12 against each team’s overall record. The rankings, in accordance the Athlon Sports article, are based on the school’s 247Sports team composite ranking average from the past five recruiting cycles. The purple diagonal line indicates the trend. The teams under the line are general underachievers when it comes to turning talent into wins. Continue reading