VIDEO: Steve Alford talks about UCLA’s guards, rebounding

Steve Alford talked to the media before UCLA’s Tuesday practice, touching on Isaac Hamilton’s play, keeping guards out of foul trouble, and Kevon Looney’s rebounding prowess.

The Bruins host UC Riverside at 8 p.m. tomorrow, their last game before facing top-10 teams in Gonzaga and Kentucky.

UCLA to start home-and-home series with Kentucky in 2015

UCLA will start a home-and-home series against Kentucky next season, it announced this morning, ensuring that the Bruins will face college basketball’s most dominant team at least three times by the end of 2016.

The No. 1 Wildcats are already slated to play against UCLA on Dec. 20 at the United Center, part of the inaugural CBS Sports Classic. Now, Kentucky will also visit Pauley Pavilion on Dec. 3, 2015, and host the Bruins at Rupp Arena on Dec. 3, 2016.

Under John Calipari, UK reeled in five straight top recruiting classes before settling for just the second-ranked class behind Duke earlier this year. The 55-year-old turned those hauls into an NCAA title in 2012, and a runner-up finish behind UConn in April.

UCLA head coach Steve Alford has pushed to schedule tougher nonconference opponents since arriving in Los Angeles — even if the Bruins (7-2) haven’t looked quite ready for that high bar yet this season. The team was blown out by then-No. 5 North Carolina in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas last month, and will host No. 9 Gonzaga this Saturday. Continue reading “UCLA to start home-and-home series with Kentucky in 2015” »

New Pac-12 reforms include guaranteed four-year scholarships

The Pac-12 has adopted “sweeping reforms” geared toward improving the welfare of its athletes, the conference announced Monday.

The biggest news is that the league will now guarantee four-year scholarships for all athletes regardless of sport effective in 2015-16 — a change that will dramatically affect how much room for error teams have in each recruiting class. While many players often have their scholarships renewed year to year as a mere formality, a blanket rule covering everyone on the roster makes it trickier for coaches to push out athletes for one reason or another.

According to a CBS Sports report last month, UCLA only gave out three guaranteed multi-year scholarships across all sports in 2013-14.

See the full set of reforms below, per the Pac-12’s press release: Continue reading “New Pac-12 reforms include guaranteed four-year scholarships” »

UCLA vs. Georgia: Quick Look

The No. 11 Bruins’ loss to Georgetown last night exposed many of this team’s flaws: Ben Howland has difficulty making in-game adjustments, the offense still isn’t meshing, and UCLA has no inside game to speak of. Georgetown will likely be a ranked team depending on how it does against No. 1 Indiana tonight, but the Hoyas — even with the duo of Otto Porter and Markel Starks — aren’t more talented than UCLA.

Shabazz Muhammad’s quote from last night about missing out sums up this team right now: “”It doesn’t feel good inside. I really wanted a shot at them. We’re really not ready yet.”

Is it time for fans to panic? Not quite, UCLA certainly doesn’t look like a Final Four contender. Some thoughts heading into tonight’s tipoff against Georgia, another unranked team.

Must-win? Yes. The Bulldogs kept pace with the Hoosiers for a most of the game, but they’re still a 1-3 team. Georgia has just one player — sophomore guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, an All-SEC freshman last year — averaging double-digit scoring, and they’re shooting just 36.3 percent from the field while allowing 43.4. Here’s guessing Jordan Adams goes for another 20 tonight.

Inside game: UCLA really doesn’t have much. John Thompson III talked up what a big team the Bruins were after last night’s game, but the Wears hardly ever play in the low post and Josh Smith still doesn’t stay on the court for long stretches. David Wear is out tonight with a back injury and Tony Parker sat out last night with back spasms, which reduces the low-post troops even further. The Bruins had success late in the game when they pushed a full-court offense more. Not sure if Howland plans to do that more against Georgia, but with the players he has, he probably should.

Freshman duo: Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson were the supposed to be program saviors this year. Tonight’s a chance to prove it. Neither is playing at 100 percent right now, what with Anderson’s bone contusion and Muhammad not being in full game shape, but they’ll both be in the starting lineup for the first time this season. That bodes well for offensive chemistry. By his own admittance, Anderson hasn’t played well recently and looks particularly out of place on defense. Still, he has preternatural passing instincts, and having him dish to Shabazz early could get the offense rolling.

(Not a major concern for the college game, but I have no idea what Anderson will do at the next level. He already can’t defend point guards, and doesn’t have the offensive skill to play forward.)

On a side note, Kyle Anderson’s father doesn’t think much of how Howland handles his son. Not a particularly volatile situation at this point, but Anderson going scoreless against Georgetown probably didn’t help the situation.

Shabazz Muhammad to start against Georgia

Shabazz Muhammad is in line for his first start this season against the Bulldogs at 7:30 p.m. ET. You can catch the game on ESPNU. The freshman will slot in for David Wear, who exited last night’s 78-70 loss to Georgia after landed hard on his back after a mid-air collision midway through the second half.

Assuming no more changes between now and tipoff, the starting lineup is now Travis Wear, Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson, Norman Powell and Larry Drew II. It’s an unorthodox set, but getting Muhammad more time may help him assert himself better early. He was just 2 of 6 for 4 points in the first half, finishing the game with 15 points

“I think at the end, we felt a little bit more comfortable with each other,” Muhammad said last night. “I’m just trying to get out here and really gel with my teammates for the first time. Just trying to get used to the system.”

Tony Parker sat out last night with back spasms, and Tyler Lamb is still recovering from swelling in his left knee after arthroscopic surgery.