Whether it's upset losses, untimely suspensions or dwindling fan support, no preseason Top 25 team has endured a more disappointing start than UCLA.
It took the Bruins (2-4) until Monday against Pepperdine to pick up their first victory over a Division I opponent. They previously lost home games by double figures against Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee State and left Maui last week with only a victory over Division II Chaminade to show for it.
To get an idea of why UCLA is struggling and whether it will improve, The Dagger asked a coach whose team has already faced the Bruins this season to assess their strengths and weaknesses. The coach was granted anonymity to assure honesty.
An opposing coach on UCLA:
1. "The whole key to UCLA being successful this year will be if their guards shoot the ball well. In their games this year, teams have sagged way off their guards and helped on the inside. That was our game plan too. Their big men are almost impossible to stop one-on-one, so we tried to help down low as much as possible. We said if they're going to beat us, they're going to do it making threes."
2. "We thought we could sag off all of their guards. We were going to make them all prove they could shoot. None of them had really shot the ball remarkably well throughout their careers, so we thought, 'Hopefully it continues against us.' We sagged off all their guards. We didn't pick one guy and say help off him."
3. "We were able to take advantage of [Joshua Smith's conditioning] in transition. Our guys were beating him down the court the majority of times, which led to us getting some open shots because people had to help on guys running lanes. ... Our game plan was to try to get [Smith] onto the perimeter as much as possible. What a lot of teams will do is use the guy he's guarding as the screener. They play almost all man-to-man defense, so I think a lot of teams will try to bring him up to the perimeter and force him to hedge and recover.
4. "We were hoping we would be able to attack [the Wear twins] off the dribble. If they're going to play three big guys, one of the big guys has to guard an opposing three man and there are positives and negatives to that. They're going to have to be able to stop penetration. They'll have their work cut out for them trying to stop people off the dribble."
5. "[Freshman guard Norman Powell] is incredibly athletic. As he gets more and more confident in their offense, he's going to get better and better. He's virtually impossible to stop off the dribble. If he can make his outside shots, he's going to be a very effective player."
6. "They're well-coached, so I think they'll get better. I think they'll find ways to get Reeves Nelson more involved in the offense. They'll find ways to use him effectively and ways to use all their big guys. They've got really good inside guys and they run really good sets for each of them, but defensively they're going to have to figure out ways to stop people."