Cal MBB @ UCLA 2014: A 949-word Q & A with BruinsNation

Stephen Dunn

After a disappointing first loss in Pac-12 play, Cal flies back down to Westwood for the annual UC clash with UCLA's newest coach, one Stephen Todd Alford. BruinsNation, SBNation's ever-noteworthy UCLA Bruins community, submitted DCBruins to answer our questions. Thanks to DCBruins; your efforts are not unappreciated.

1. Coach Steve Alford - so we've heard lots of criticism of how coach Alford handled his previous stop at Iowa over rape accusations - but since this is more basketball focused - how has he done as a coach? What is working and what do you wish he could improve on?

He is doing a good job not being Ben Howland of the last five seasons. If Ben Howland was coaching, we would have had a bad loss in the non-conference season and at least a player transferred.

If we could wish for one thing it is simply to play the best lineup more. All of Bruinsnation and most Bruins fans agree the best team is Kyle Anderson, Norman Powell, Zach Lavine, Jordan Adams, and a big (legitimate disagreement on the big.) Those four are the best team and a matchup nightmare for any opponent.

Problem is Steve Alford plays that lineup only a few minutes a game. Bigger problem is LaVine (ESPN called him one of the six best freshmen in the nation) doesn't start and Powell loses 5-10 minutes a game to Steve Alford's son Bryce. It is a concern that is hurting us.

2. How can the Wears have been transfers if it feels like they've been playing since the days of Murray and McLean. What is the Bruins Nation opinion of the twins?

They are strange players. 6'10" players who are generally poor rebounders and good mid-range jump shooters. The latter is like Don MacLean.

At times they can shoot well from the outside but at times they seem too limited. But even their outside shooting is frustrating as they have a habit of shooting straddling the three point line.

Travis started the year poorly but has been playing well recently. So some fans hate the fact a 6'10" dude can't rebound or really play like a post, some are at the "they are what they are" point.

3. Is Kyle Anderson playing full time point guard for you guys now? Or is it a combination of Norman Powell and Bryce Alford?

Okay, forgive my Bruin homer hat. Kyle Anderson is the best player in the PAC 12. He is more than just UCLA's point guard; he is a power forward on defense. He is leading UCLA in every category in PAC 12 play except steals (second) and field goal percentage (second). This is not an anomaly. He is leading the conference in assists and defensive rebounds and is fourth in steals and eighth in assist to turnover ratio.

This is Kyle's team and fortunately for UCLA he is amazing.

4. What philosophically is Alford doing differently than Howland?

Ben Howland was the drill sergeant who demanded plays and structure on offense and, when he was successful, a defensive pressure first approach that led to bad shots but not steals.

Alford runs a motion offense. At times the UCLA offense is "let's see what Kyle can do" which often works because Kyle is so good. Other times it is running off steals and then watch out as Norman and Zach can really put on a show. (USC called UCLA slow and had a record tying amount of points put on them.)

Of course if you can take Kyle out of the game or you can limit turnovers, this UCLA team is in trouble.

5. Is Tony Parker a new man or Josh Smith, 2.0? Be honest - are you afraid that he'll eat a walk-on or student manager at any given time?

Nah. Josh Smith was the strangest player to put on a UCLA uniform in a long time. As much talent as many of the greats, but little interest in basketball. At one point, his Dad told him he had to play. I really think Josh does not like basketball.

Tony is thinner but he is better because he is free of Howland. Tony is a guy that is constantly getting better BUT it is not a steady upward trend. There are bumps and downturns. Tony may be our best center now and he is improving all the time. But he still makes some boneheaded plays.

6. What exactly happened at Utah? Blip on the radar, or symptomatic of deeper issues?

Sigh. In the Utah game we were up by one when Kyle Anderson sat down in the first half. When Kyle went out and Bryce Alford was point guard, Utah went on an 11-0 run that changed the game around. It was a combination of UCLA missing Anderson and Bryce being truly awful. Utah had confidence and momentum after that until late in the second half.

To your second question, the use of Bryce for so many minutes and his recent poor play are concerns. Bryce is a very good three shooter if he has his feet set but after that it gets dicey. Bryce was playing well when he was playing within himself but when he drives to the basket, it usually leads to disaster.

7. The numbers say you have the top offense in the Pac-12. What's going on w/ the defense? Is this team best suited for zone or man?

The defense gambles a lot which can lead to easy points. But when it fails it can lead to open shots. As far as zone or man, at the beginning of the year, Zach Lavine and Bryce Alford were terrible man to man defenders. Now Zach is looking decent to good but Bryce still has troubles. Thus when Bryce is on the court we almost always have to play zone. Otherwise a nice thing about Steve Alford over Howland is he mixes up his looks, sometimes we even trap.

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