The UCLA football team never found its identity in 2016. It appeared to be a defensive stalwart for a few games, a pass-happy team Mike Leach would have been proud of for a few games…but it never became clear what UCLA did best. It was no coincidence the Bruins won four games in one of the most disappointing seasons in recent memory.
If the UCLA basketball team’s identity wasn’t clear before Thursday’s blowout win at Colorado, it was crystallized during the 104-89 victory that wasn’t nearly as close as that score would indicate. UCLA is exceptional at two things. Both, not surprisingly, are of the offensive variety.
One, the Bruins’ 3-point shooting is tremendous. Two, their fast break is nothing short of spectacular. Opponents are well aware of both at this point, but still struggle to prevent either, a telltale sign UCLA’s strengths can carry them a long way this season.
Yes, the Bruins clearly have weaknesses on the basketball court. They are average defensively. In a related matter, they struggle to keep teams off the offensive boards. But UCLA is so potent offensively, it more than compensates for any deficiencies.
No. 4 UCLA’s road trip begins tonight against a Colorado team that is a deceiving 0-3 in the Pac-12 after playing all three of its conference games on the road
It should probably frighten the Pac-12 – and maybe the rest of college basketball – that the UCLA basketball team has ample room to improve.
It’s not surprising that a team whose two best players are freshman would get substantially better over the course of a season, but it’s another thing to identify areas for potential growth for a 16-1 team ranked No. 4 in the country.
Entering tonight’s game at Colorado, UCLA is allowing 13 offensive rebounds per game. This not only hurts them in obvious ways like allowing opportunities for second-chance points. It hampers what the Bruins do best, run the fast break.
UCLA can argue it has the best transition offense in college basketball, freshman point guard Lonzo Ball being the obvious catalyst. If UCLA can cut down its opponents’ offensive rebounds, it can help itself in two areas.
Colorado is an interesting case on the boards. The Buffaloes’ front court is on the smallish side, but they’ve got one of the largest, most physical backcourts in the Pac-12. In other words, Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton are facing a difficult test on the defensive end. Colorado will likely try to post up UCLA’s two weakest defensive links, and they will certainly test them on the boards.
Read the complete preview for UCLA versus Colorado here as the Bruins embark on their second road trip of conference play, one it will finish in Utah.
The youngest of the three Ball brothers, who committed to UCLA while he was in eighth grade, discusses his now famous half-court shot in the video below. Lonzo Ball also addresses the shot by his brother, who he dubs a “crazy player.”
Michigan quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch, left, here with Wolverines quarterback Shane Morris, will take over as offensive coordinator for UCLA. (AP Photo/Tony Ding, File)
For coming to UCLA, offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch signed a two-year contract worth $810,000 a season, making him the second-highest paid assistant coach at a public Pac-12 school behind Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt.
Here’s how Fisch’s salary breaks down:
$250,000 per year base salary
$244,000 per year talent fee
$150,000 one-time signing fee
$156,000 retention bonus for first contract year (if Fisch remains with staff on Dec. 15, 2017)
$306,000 total retention bonus for second contract year
$150,000 if Fisch is still on the staff on June 15, 2018
$156,000 is Fisch is still on staff on Dec. 15, 2018
Fisch’s contract eclipses that of offensive line coach Adrian Klemm, who was the highest paid assistant coach at a public Pac-12 school in 2016. Klemm made $760,000 last season.
According to M Live, Fisch was scheduled to make $750,000 at Michigan this year, where he would have been in his second year as the passing game coordinator and quarterbacks and wide receivers coach. He made $700,000 during his first year in Ann Arbor.
Fisch’s contract includes a unique clause that terminates employment in the event that head coach Jim Mora leaves or is fired. Unlike the contracts from other UCLA assistants, Fisch’s contract will end 30 days after the hiring of a new head coach. In the event of head coach departure, the other assistant coaches have contracts that continue until their respective ending dates.
UCLA picked up a commitment from three-star offensive lineman Jax Wacaser on Wednesday, bringing the class of 2017’s total to 14 commits with exactly three weeks left until National Signing Day.
Wacaser, an offensive tackle from Arizona’s Saguaro High, was also considering Cal, Utah, Vanderbilt and Virginia, among others.
The 6-foot-4, 250-pound prospect is the No. 4 offensive tackle in Arizona, according to Scout. He is UCLA’s third offensive line commit for this recruiting class, joining Jaxon Kirkland and Kanan Ray.
Of the Bruins’ 14 commits, nine are primarily defensive players, while three of the five offensive players are linemen. UCLA is still lacking a true receiver in this class outside of tight end Jimmy Jaggers.