Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Trouble At UCLA, Syracuse

I've been out of town a bit lately, but I came home to two troubling stories out of UCLA, as well as one from Syracuse:

Jerime Anderson suspended - Jerime Anderson has had a series of off-court issues. You can google them if you want. Ben Howland is getting credit for being "pro-active" by suspending him as opposed to how Jim Boeheim is dealing with Fab Melo (more on him in a moment), but so far Anderson has only been suspended for the season opener against Loyola-Marymount on November 11th. Regardless of what troubles UCLA has this offseason, they'll have no problem beating Loyola-Marymount. Their first test will be at the Maui Invitational, beginning November 21st.

Lazeric Jones and Jerime Anderson split time at point guard last season. Anderson is the better scorer, but Jones is the better pure point guard and passer. And because of that, Jones got more of the time this past season. But Anderson might be needed to play extra minutes in 2011-12 because...

Josh Smith appears to be overweight and out of shape - Only those inside the UCLA program really know what condition Josh Smith is in, but this story is disconcerting. Smith has continually had trouble keeping his weight down, and this is the time of year that we typically hear "[so-and-so] is working hard and getting himself in shape" stories, and anything out of that norm warrants attention.

I had projected an improvement in UCLA's play this coming season, picking them to finish second in the new Pac-12, and to earn a 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The big reason for that belief was a strengthened front line. Tyler Honeycutt left for the NBA Draft, but I expected Reeves Nelson and Josh Smith to be excellent again, and the team adds the Wear twins, formerly from North Carolina. Brendan Stovall also played well in limited minutes last season.

If Jerime Anderson is suspended for any serious length of time, UCLA will get quite a bit thin in the backcourt. Lazeric Jones and Tyler Lamb are the best starting backcourt in the Pac-12 (that's my opinion... Arizona fans might disagree), but their only other realistic option for major minutes in the backcourt other than Jerime Anderson is 2011 recruit Norman Powell.

The Anderson and Smith stories are simply ones that we'll have to keep tabs on. If Josh Smith gets himself in shape, and Jerime Anderson behaves and is back on the court for Maui, all will be well in Los Angeles.

Fab Melo has off-court problems of his own - Things certainly do not look good for the personal character of Fab Melo. Melo is a key for the future of Syracuse basketball. After getting a ton of hype heading into the 2010-11 season, he got off to a slow start to the season, but came on strong late and I was projecting big things from him. I expected him to be the defensive centerpiece of an Orange team I picked to win the Big East. Of course, even if the allegations about what Melo did are all true, it doesn't necessarily mean much. We learned last year with the LaceDarius Dunn mess that big time basketball programs will often whitewash the misdeeds of their star players. So like the Jerime Anderson case, we just have to wait to see what happens, and if any key games are missed.

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