The UCLA Bruins looked like they were ready to revive the great traditions of the program this season. They found the size they desperately needed to tower over the rest of the conference. They were starting to land the marquee recruits necessary to revive the program. They were favored to win the Pac-12 and make a run deep in the NCAA tournament.
All of that pretty much got detonated after an embarrassing defeat to Loyola Marymount.
Analyzing this putrid performance, it has to start with the play of [Lazeric Jones] ... He missed his first ten shots and didn't scratch the score sheet until 30 minutes into the game, where he finally made a layup on a drive that he could have easily turned the ball over on (again). He completely abdicated his point guard duties on both ends of the floor, where his counterpart Anthony Ireland abused him on the inside and on the perimeter for 21 points. Zeek did absolutely nothing well tonight, and while it's never supposed to be the fault of one person for a loss in a team game, Zeek came as close as anyone ever has to disproving that.
Maybe Jerime Anderson being out for this one took its toll on Jones, who just might be better off in a supporting role. But UCLA's backup point guard being this overwhelmed against a middling WCC squad can't be a good sign for the long-term hopes of the Bruins, who have prided themselves on their strength along the perimeter throughout the Ben Howland era.
And it looks as if LMU didn't at all fear the Bruins wing threats, as Tyler Lamb, De'End Parker and Jones were left alone to fire and clang. Will that be the strategy for other squads going forward?
So how is the size faring? Slightly better. Slightly.
David and Travis Wear did appear to have a good thing going at the start, single handedly keeping the Bruins in the game in the first half with 20 points combined and displaying offensive range that will be crucial going forward, but they also contributed to the lack of defensive awareness mentioned earlier on the interior. Close range passes for LMU almost always ended up as a layup right in the shadow of one of the twins. It also didn't help that they disappeared offensively after halftime.
LMU outexecuting the talent of UCLA. It's becoming a common trend for Bruins basketball teams against the dregs of their OOC schedule. And it's not a good sign that the hallmark of Ben Howland teams (defense) isn't showing up in early contests.
You can definitely see the flashes of talent from this squad. But it doesn't look like it gelled at all in its first game in the LA Sports Arena. Not a good start for Howland in what amounts to a critical year in his tenure, not a good start if they expect to sell tickets in a year away from Westwood.
Keep in mind UCLA has had these struggles before; they lost at home last year to Montana and squeaked by UC Irvine and still managed to make it oh-so-close to the Sweet 16. This game is not at all a portending of doom for what the Bruins can accomplish this year. It's just disturbing that it's become a trend for a program that once prided itself on never ever losing home games outside the conference.
UCLA was expected to be one of the leaders of the conference this season. They'd better hope this is the type of movie where the leader learns these traits somewhere in the first act, or the Pac-12 profile could suffer come tournament time.