#36 UCLA Men's Basketball Preview

UCLA Bruins

Overall Rank: #36
Conference Rank: #3 Pac-12
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2010-11: 23-11, 13-5
2010-11 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Ben Howland (189-83 at UCLA, 357-182 overall)

UCLA will boast one of the best frontcourts in the nation, but the pressure is on the backcourt to compliment the talent in the paint. Most of that pressure will fall on returning point guard Lazeric Jones. Jones is a good playmaker and a fine scorer who can attack the basket. However, he is not a great shooter and that allows the defense to fall back more quickly and double the post. If Jones can become a more consistent outside shooter, it will make him a very dangerous point guard who can do everything for the Bruins.

Who’s Out:
Malcolm Lee and Tyler Honeycutt were the most prolific outside shooters for UCLA last season. That is not saying too much, but Coach Ben Howland will certainly be scanning the roster for a shooter or two. Lee was the leader of the backcourt and was second on the team with 13.1 points per game. He took most of the big shots for the Bruins and finding that weapon in the backcourt again will take a little time. Honeycutt, who averaged 12.8 points and 7.2 rebounds in 2010-2011, was the big man who could stretch out the defense with his shooting ability. Honeycutt was also the squad’s best shot blocker.

Who’s In:
Coach Howland loaded up on guards with this class. Of David Brown, Nick Kazemi, Khalid McCaskill, Da’End Parker and Norman Powell, it is Parker and Powell who will likely make some noise right away. Parker is a junior college transfer who is coming off a great year at City College of San Francisco. Parker has the size and experience to make a major impact right away. Powell lacks the experience, but he is a superb athlete who can get above the rim. He is also a tough defender and that is what may earn him a starting role. Of course, the bigger newcomers are David and Travis Wear. The twins are eligible this year after transferring from North Carolina. David is pretty much a 6-10 small forward. He is a fine passer and a good shooter, especially for somebody his size. Travis had a little more production during his one season in Chapel Hill and will be a great player off of the bench for the Bruins.

Who to Watch:
On most teams both Wear’s would be starting. But that is not the case here when UCLA has Reeves Nelson and Joshua Smith coming back. Like Travis, Nelson is a versatile big man who can step out on the perimeter. However, Nelson is more productive in the paint. He can stretch out the defense on occasion, but he is a bruiser under the basket who led the squad with 13.9 points and 9.1 rebounds last season. Smith made a name for himself late in his freshman year. At 6-10 and 305 pounds, he is a big man. By February and March he was in the starting lineup and doing a great job. His 10.9 points and 6.3 rebound averages do not begin to show how much he improved down the stretch of the 2010-2011 campaign. If he can keep it up this year, the UCLA frontcourt will be the best in the nation. Add players like Brendan Lane and Anthony Stover, who both started some games last year, and this unit is full of quality depth.

Final Projection:
The frontcourt can get UCLA to the NCAA Tournament, but this team needs some help on the perimeter. The newcomers will play a huge role sooner or later. The other options are Jerime Anderson and Tyler Lamb. Anderson will miss at least the first game of the year due to a suspension. Assuming he comes back at some point, he will be the backup point guard behind Jones. That leaves Lamb. As a freshman the 6-5 guard played solid defense, but never found his shot. If he cannot score, at least Lamb can do other things, but he will not make the starting lineup until he can knock down some more shots. Coach Howland should have a couple players who can make the long ball. Jones is decent and Travis Wear is more than capable. However, it would be nice if somebody else could add to the shooting potential on this team. They do not have to make shots a lot; they just need to be a threat so the opposing defense cannot clog the paint. It will take a lot of effort to guard the big guys as it is and the more UCLA can capitalize on that by freeing space for the frontcourt, the better this team will be in 2011-2012.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Lazeric Jones, Senior, Guard, 9.1 points per game
Norman Powell, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
David Wear, Sophomore, Forward, DNP last season
Reeves Nelson, Junior, Forward, 13.9 points per game
Joshua Smith, Sophomore, Center, 10.9 points per game

Madness 2011 Men's Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#53 Norman Powell

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