Q&A — 1/15/16 Answers

Q: Why is our basketball team so wildly inconsistent this year?

A: The Bruins aren’t very good on defense, which I’d attribute to both the abilities of individual players as well as lackluster coaching. That puts them in a bad spot whenever they fall into scoring droughts; we saw that against USC, when every second-half comeback attempt died because the Trojans responded with quick, easy points. UCLA’s offense has also become very dependent on Bryce Alford’s shooting. When he’s not hitting baskets, everything else bogs down. When he is, however, it’s a difficult team to stop.

Q: Looking ahead to the 2016 season the roster should be filled with talent. What do you think the starting five will look like after T.J. Leaf and Lonzo Ball make it on to campus? If Ball ends up starting, which current guard do you see Coach Alford moving to the bench?

A: Since no one on the team looks NBA-ready, let’s assume that none of them makes a bad decision to turn pro early. In that case, I’d expect the starting lineup to look something like:

C — Thomas Welsh, Jr.
F — T.J. Leaf, Fr.
G — Isaac Hamilton, Sr.
G — Bryce Alford, Sr.
G — Lonzo Ball, Fr.

Since there’s no way Alford will send his son to the bench — and since Hamilton will also be a senior — Aaron Holiday in a sixth man role probably makes the most sense. But I could also see a scenario where Hamilton becomes the leading scorer of the second unit. Continue reading

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Weekly Q&A — 11/26/15 Answers

Q: Does anyone remember who was favored in the 2012, 2013 and 2014 UCLA and USC football games?

A: According to the Odds Shark database, UCLA was a 3.5-point favorite last year, a 4.5-point underdog in 2013, and a 4-point underdog in 2012.

Q: What’s the injury report on our defense? Also, is Conor McDermott going to play Saturday?

A: Linebacker Isaako Savaiinaea (ankle) and cornerback Johnny Johnson (neck) both dressed and warmed up at Utah, but didn’t play. Mora said Johnson will return, and I’d bet on Savaiinaea playing too. Defensive lineman Matt Dickerson was being examined for an undisclosed injury near the end of UCLA’s win over Utah, and left Wednesday’s practice early. Not sure about his severity, but he wasn’t noticeably limping or anything. Defensive end Takkarist McKinley has been playing through some leg injuries for over a month now, but I expect him to be on the field.

I’d be stunned if Conor McDermott plays. He hasn’t practiced since injuring his knee on Saturday, and I wouldn’t expect him back until the bowl game — if he returns at all. Kolton Miller will almost certainly start at left tackle against USC. Devin Fuller played last weekend, so the wideout will likely be on the field again for the last rivalry game of his career. I’d call freshman receiver Stephen Johnson III doubtful; I didn’t see him anywhere on the field at Utah.

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Weekly Q&A — 11/19/15 Answers

Q: How do you think UCLA will finish season? And which bowl will UCLA go to?

A: It’s hard to say at this point. I’ve covered UCLA since 2012, and this is probably as poor a feel as I’ve ever had for the team’s outlook. I could see the Bruins winning out, splitting, or losing out its final two regular-season games with little surprise at any outcome.

So, let’s break down the possible scenarios:

1) UCLA loses out. I think this would likely place the Bruins in the Las Vegas Bowl.

2) UCLA splits. The Sun Bowl now has the fifth selection out of the Pac-12, which seems like a reasonable landing spot for a 7-5 team.

3) UCLA wins out. If the Bruins then also win the Pac-12 Championship, they would obviously be in the Rose Bowl. But if they lost that title game, I think they would get placed in the Holiday Bowl. The Alamo Bowl has the second selection out of the conference, but UCLA just played there last year.

Q: On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being most likely): What would you say UCLA’s chances were of beating Utah with Devontae Booker? What would you say UCLA’s chances are of beating Utah without Devontae Booker?

A: I probably would’ve given UCLA a 4 or a 5 before Booker went down. I’d move that up to 7.5 or so now. Continue reading

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