Tuesday, April 27, 2010

UCLA Rebuilding Quickly

Pac-10 fans who thought UCLA might be falling off after one bad year are quickly realizing their mistake. After the disaster of a season they just had it's easy to forget that just 14 months ago they were trying to reach their fourth consecutive Final Four. And it wasn't like UCLA stopped bringing in good recruits, it was simply that they were a victim of their own success with so many players leaving for the NBA, leading to some very sparse junior and senior classes. Last season there was no leadership, and it was obviously even before the season started that there was internal strife, as I noted in October that teams with good chemistry don't have six players out with minor injuries at the same time. It was just one of those years with players transferring out, nobody sure who "the man" was, and everybody just counting the minutes until the next season.

As expected, UCLA has been very active in this recruiting season, grabbing blue chip shooting guard Tyler Lamb, 270 pound center Josh Smith, and a quality point guard Juco transfer in Lazeric Jones. And UCLA got even more good news today with 2011 shooting guard Matt Carlino not only signing, but saying he'll graduate early to become a 2010 recruit who will be able to play at the beginning of the season. Those guards will join Malcolm Lee, the best returning player, in the backcourt next season. A question mark is the extremely talented point guard Jerime Anderson, who has struggled mightily since being a key piece of their 2008 recruiting class. The one rising-senior scholarship player is a guard, Mustafa Abdul-Hamid, but he won't play more than about ten minutes per game. Down low, the best returner is Tyler Honeycutt, and Reeves Nelson also played extended minutes this past season. But with the losses of Drew Gordon and J'Mison Morgan they're going to be very thin in the post. Brendan Lane and Anthony Stover didn't do much as freshmen in 2009-10, but both are quality young players who have the ability to eat minutes. We can expect Ben Howland to try to land another big man if he can. Honeycutt is athletic enough to slide down to small forward, but unless they get unexpected production from some untested big men I'd expect the Bruins to go with a lot of three guard lineups. I'd probably start Anderson, Lamb, Lee, Honeycutt and Nelson.

So once again UCLA will be talented, but young. The question will be whether Malcolm Lee can lead the team, and how effective they'll be when the pressure is on with so little production from experienced players. Right now they're a bubble team, in my opinion. But there's no question that UCLA continues to be a recruiting monster and will continue to be a contender to win the Pac-10 year in and year out.

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