Bumped! Nice work - JK
News came out today that former Rivals top 100 recruit Mike Moser would be transferring out of UCLA. Taken together with the recent announcement of the "transfer" of J'Mison Morgan and starter Drew Gordon's departure earlier this season that makes 3 transfers in this season alone for one of college hoops' most storied programs. Moreover head coach Ben Howland turned in a 14-18 season and will lose three seniors, two starters in Michael Roll and Nikola Dragovic and rotation player James Keefe. Perhaps Dragovic and Keefe won't be missed that badly, but when you consider that the incoming recruiting class, although featuring elite talents in Tyler Lamb and Josh Smith, currently stands at only three players strong then there is a rather urgent personnel need. In fact if you include the incoming class, Howland is working with only 9 scholarship players and that is without accounting for Brendan Lane's recenty projected 5 month recovery from surgery and the very real possibility that Malcolm Lee may be headed for the NBA Draft. It certainly looks like troubled times are ahead for the Bruins.
Consider the following table (ratings are in points scored and points allowed per 100 possessions):
|Year||Off. Rating||Rank||Def. Rating||Rank||Diff|
The funny thing is despite the complaints of some players and fans, UCLA had actually been fielding one of the nation's most efficient offenses since 2005 till this past season, and during the program's run of three consecutive final fours also featured one of the best defenses as well. It is interesting to note that during the final four streak both Darren Collison and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute featured prominently on all 3 teams, and these two were complemented by different stars in each of the the seasons with 05-06 featuring Aaron Afflalo and Jordan Farmar, 06-07 once again featuring Afflalo and the offensive boost from the return of Josh Shipp, and of course 07-08 being punctuated by Kevin Love and the surprising rise of phenom Russel Westbrook. The other hallmark of these teams were key contributions from high level role players such as Alfred Aboya, Lorenzo Mata, and Michael Roll.
Obviously this past season lacked all of those aspects, there was no real returning core of high level players and the bench was rather thin. This would not really be a problem if UCLA were building a core of seasoned veteran's to be complemented by elite talent, but the fact of the matter is that the development of the heralded 2009 class was stunted in favor of minutes that were given to Dragovic and one year wonder Jrue Holiday. This lineup may have given the team their best chance to win in that year, but ultimately both Jerime Anderson and Malcolm Lee saw very little time in the 08-09 season (even less than Gordon) in a rotation that heavily favored the team's starters and bench players Roll and Keefe.
So even going into next season even with the generous assumption that every player returns, UCLA's roster is not that impressive. The Bruins will feature a likely starting lineup of an underachieving Anderson splitting time with a JUCO transfer at the point, a Junior with only one year of consistent minutes in Malcolm Lee starting at the SG spot with a freshman backing him up, sophomore Tyler Honeycutt who played only about half the season at the 3 with no depth behind him, sophomore Reeves Nelson at the 4 spot, and time split between red shirt freshman Anthony Stover and highly regarded but out of shape incoming freshman Josh Smith. Essentially this lineup will have a grand total of about .75 seasons of D1 college experience per players depending on what starting lineup they finally settle on.
The point is, how could it be reasonable to expect that UCLA could be better next year? Simply put, it isn't not really. High player turnover, little depth, staff turnover, and other (admittedly perceived) internal strife point towards another bad season for UCLA hoops. This is really great news for USC, and I don't think it is too crazy to think that the Trojans may get to a 5 game winning streak over the Bruins. More importantly though is that this is a huge opportunity for the program to initiate a change in the culture of LA hoops and establish stronger local recruiting. I just hope that Kevin O'Neill is up to the task, and some early signs are very encouraging with the signing of star Bryce Jones and the commitment of 2011 local talents Byron Wesley and Gelaun Wheelwright. Now the challenge is to get Jones's teammate Kevin Johnson and assemble a stellar 2012 class. Regardless, interesting times are just ahead for SC Hoops...