ASU vs. UCLA: Men's Basketball Preview

To me, UCLA is like a roulette wheel this year; where they land, nobody knows. Picked to be a Pac-12 contender and a top 25 team due to a loaded frontcourt, the Bruins started slow early (LMU, Mid TN, Maui) before embarking on a winning streak... that ended with a 0-2 Pac 12 start that led to a crucial win against Arizona. Who knows what the Bruins will be like in this matchup. Will they be the top 20 team most foresaw, or would the Bruins fall well short of expectations? Regardless, a view of the Bruins' roster, style of play, weaknesses and more after the jump.

Style of play (offense)

UCLA plays a slow, similar pace to Cal (around 65 possessions a game), not shocking due to the frontcourt talent. However, the main problem offensively is their inability to score. They average around 69 points a game, shooting 44% from the floor, 35% from 3 and 67% from the line, all subpar numbers compared to the rest of the Pac. They don't go the line often and take a low percentage of shots from 3, another indicatort of their inside-game-dependent offense. The Bruins, however, do a good job of crashing to offensive glass (3rd best) and don't turn the ball over (their Assist to turnover ratio is only behind Cal).

Expect the Bruins to get the ball in the low/high post area at least once before they take a shot. They will let the inside game dictate their shot selection; if the big guys find a shot they'll take it. Otherwise they will kick it out for the guards to either reset the offense, take a shot or create.

Style of play (defense)

Originally a man to man enthusiast, UCLA head coach Ben Howland now sometimes uses zone defense in order to capitalize on his team's size advantage and foot-speed disadvantage. Expect both a man and zone defense throughout the game.

The defense as a whole is pretty average, allowing opponents to shoot 43%, which is 10th in the Pac 12, and there were a number of games where opponents shot the lights out (ie. Mid TN, Cal). What's even worse for the Bruins is that they are very average on the defensive glass, with a def. rebounding rate of 69%. However, the Bruins get a lot of blocks and a lot of steals, courtesy of their big guys and in-your-face man style respectively. One other problem is that they foul a lot, resulting in foul trouble for starters.

Key Personnel Snippets:

Lazeric (aka. Zeke) Jones is the PG and shooter for the Bruins. He leads the team in scoring and assists, but is probably more important as a shooter that will free up the inside. He's also a solid defender with a penchant for ball thievery (2 steals a game). Also leads team in minutes per game.

Tyler Lamb is a talented but erratic wing. He can go off (like against Cal) or just vanish. He can shoot from anywhere but is very streaky, and as a result is not wholly efficient from the floor. Plays the second most minutes a game.

Jerime Anderson is much like Jones in that he's a good 3 ball shooter and is capable of taking care of the ball. However, beyond his 3 point shooting and distribution abilities he's not efficient everywhere else. Not terrible defensively.

David and Travis Wear play similar face up 4-man-esque styles: Can score inside but can also do so in the high post/mid-range area. Not good on the boards, however. Travis is the better offensively player (second leader scorer) and shot blocker (leads team) but David is the better rebounder (6 rpg, leads team). OK foot speed for power forwards, enough to hold the fort during a man to man defensive scheme.

Josh Smith (and I don't know if he's suiting up this game) is a heavy low post scorer. However, his lack of conditioning limits his minutes, gets him into earlier foul trouble and causes defensive breakdowns because of his inability to go to the help side early enough. A good shot blocker and space eater. Will probably come off the bench like last year.

Anthony Stover blocks a lot of shots and defends inside. Doesn't do much else.

Norman Powell and De'end Parker are good slashers going to the hole but can't do much beyond that. Plays minutes off the bench.

Strategy

Get out in transition sparingly. UCLA won't catch up but transitiion will wear out ASU's depth as well.

When Josh Smith is on the floor (assuming he is back), go to the hole and make him work. Won't hurt if you get him in foul trouble.

Play the Wear twins physically; you might knock them out of their rhythm.

Jones will get his, but force Lamb to start cold and force Anderson to go off the dribble and score that way.

Felix and Lockett must produce (again). Won't hurt if ASU's bigs chip in 10 points collectively and do well on the boards.

Take advantage of UCLA's indifference on the offensive glass. Get second shot opportunities.

The 3 pointer will be there; take it when the chance presents itself. UCLA allows foes to shoot 38% from 3, a very bad mark for them.

Avoid turnovers.

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