UCLA links: Bruins likely short-handed at linebacker

Hawaii wide receiver Kalakaua Timoteo, center, drops the ball and gets leveled by UCLA linebacker Josh Woods, left, and hit from behind by defensive back Mossi Johnson (21) at the goal line, Woods was penalized for targeting and ejected, during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Pasadena, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. UCLA won 56-23. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

The Pac-12 issued a statement Monday evening acknowledging the officiating error that left a crushing hit on Kenny Young unpenalized, but UCLA head coach Jim Mora said the public comment from the conference did little to rectify the error as one of the biggest leaders on the UCLA defense is working through the concussion protocol before the team’s game against Memphis on Saturday at 9 a.m.

“It was clear, it was concise, it was beyond reproach that it was a violent, flagrant target and for some reason the process failed,” Mora said of a blindside block that knocked Young out of the game in the first quarter.

Young’s status is uncertain as he works through concussion protocol, but fellow linebacker Josh Woods will surely be out for the first half against Memphis for the targeting call that he drew in the fourth quarter against Hawaii. Mora said there is no appeal process for rescinding the suspension.

More on the two controversial calls that could leave the Bruins without two of their starting linebackers. 

UCLA doesn’t officially discuss injuries during the season, so when it comes to the statuses of other players, here’s what we know and can speculate: Continue reading “UCLA links: Bruins likely short-handed at linebacker” »

Pac-12 will ban incoming transfers with history of misconduct

The Pac-12 has instituted a new rule that will prevent transfers by athletes with a history of misconduct, the conference announced today.

The new rule requires transfer applicants to self-disclose whether or not they are allowed to re-enroll at their prior schools. If not, they would not be eligible to receive athletic aid or participate in athletic activities.

The policy will apply to issues related to “assault, harassment, academic fraud, and other violations of campus behavior conduct policies,” the conference said — not to academic ineligibility that does not stem from misconduct.

“This is an important step to strengthen our student-athlete transfer admission processes and to address the safety of our students,” UCLA chancellor Gene Block said.

Such a rule may have prevented, for example, the Oregon men’s basketball team from accepting Brandon Austin in 2014. The 6-foot-6 wing had been suspended by Providence College, where he had been a subject of a rape investigation. Austin faced sexual assault allegations again in Eugene, along with teammates Damyean Dotson and Dominic Artis; all three were eventually expelled.

Can UCLA basketball’s defense keep up with faster teams?

The UCLA men's basketball team has struggled on defense this season, particularly against up-tempo teams. (Stephen Carr/Staff)

The UCLA men’s basketball team has struggled on defense this season, particularly against up-tempo teams. (Stephen Carr/Staff)

After a comfortable win at Oregon State on Wednesday, Steve Alford said that UCLA finally “guarded the way that we wanted to guard.” Can the Bruins keep it up?

Both Alford and his players have explained the team’s defensive struggles with terms like “energy” and “demeanor” — suggesting that the problem has less to do with matchups than willpower and focus. But there’s another factor that could help clarify UCLA’s inconsistency: pace of play.

Against teams that rank top-100 nationally in adjusted tempo, according to Ken Pomeroy’s statistical rankings, the Bruins have a 2-6 record. Against teams below that, they are 10-1, with the lone loss coming to Washington State.

As for the Beavers? They were the slowest opponent UCLA has faced this season, clocking in at No. 263 with 67.5 possessions per 40 minutes.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Bruins have an average scoring margin of -5.5 against teams that average at least 71.0 possessions per 40. When it faces teams that average less than 70.0 possessions, UCLA is cruising along at +7.6 — a figure that doesn’t even factor in their 32-point win over CSUN.

This obviously isn’t a perfect measure, but the data at least echoes how the Bruins’ transition defense has looked according to the eye test. It also helps explain how the team convincingly upset Kentucky, Gonzaga, and Arizona.

Fortunately for UCLA, most of the Pac-12 isn’t running at a breakneck pace. Washington is far and away the leader, ranking fifth in the NCAA at 78.0 possessions. Next in the league is USC, which ranks No. 45 with 72.8.

No one else is even in the top 100. Oregon and Colorado both average 70.3 possessions, just 0.1 behind the Bruins, while Stanford rounds out the league down at 67.1.

Pac-12 reprimands UCLA’s Deon Hollins for complaints about refs

The Pac-12 has reprimanded UCLA linebacker Deon Hollins for what it described as “derogatory comments” about the conference’s officiating.

Hollins said on Tuesday that referees had missed numerous holding calls during the Bruins’ 31-27 loss to Washington State this past weekend, and joked about possibly sending officials a gift basket.

“It’s really tough sometimes beating the referees and beating the other team,” he said then. “It’s really tough sometimes. We were just looking at it on film. There were so many missed things. I was appalled.”

That was enough to prompt an official response from the conference.

“All of our student-athletes must adhere to the Pac-12’s Standards of Conduct,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement. “Mr. Hollins remarks were a clear violation of the Pac-12 comprehensive restrictions on public comments on officiating and he is being appropriately reprimanded.”

“There is a great deal of responsibility that comes with being a football student-athlete in the Pac-12 and at UCLA,” Hollins said in a statement. “Unfortunately, yesterday I spoke out of frustration and knew almost immediately afterwards that my comments were inappropriate. I expect more of myself and will not let this happen again.”

UCLA basketball prepares for 2015 Pac-12 Tournament

UCLA arrives in Las Vegas for one last chance to show that its worthy of a spot in the Big Dance.

The Bruins enter the Pac-12 Tournament likely needing two wins to feel secure heading into Selection Sunday, but that would almost certainly mean knocking off top-seeded Arizona in the semifinals.

“This team has a lot to prove, I think,” said UCLA point guard Bryce Alford. “We know what we’re capable of. I don’t know if the nation knows that yet. We haven’t really done all that much to show what we’re capable of. But we know it as a team. We’ve seen glimpses of it. … I think we can beat just about anybody on any given night. We’ve got to go out there and prove it.”

The competition starts today at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, with a first-round game between USC and Arizona State that will determine who UCLA faces at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday. The Trojans and Sun Devils tip off at 2:30 p.m. today.

“I’d want to play against Arizona State, just because we let one slip away up there,” said senior Norman Powell. “It was a close game. Honestly, whoever wins that game, we’re just going to go at it the same way.”

— Norman Powell reflects on his UCLA career, one that saw him blossom in transitioning from Ben Howland to Steve Alford.
— UCLA heads to Las Vegas still hoping to pad its NCAA Tournament resume.