Washington UCLA Basketball

Bill Walton isn’t a fan of UCLA head coach Ben Howland


For those who watch college basketball on a regular basis, last night’s contest between Washington and UCLA simply served as more evidence to the fact that color commentator Bill Walton is not a fan of UCLA head coach Ben Howland.

During one exchange between Walton and play-by-play announcer Dave Pasch, as noted by Adam Zagoria of SNY, the Hall of Famer who played at UCLA for John Wooden stated that things would be different if he were in charge.

Pasch: “OK, well, that’s obvious. How do you play better basketball?”

Walton: “Better style.”

Pasch: “Alright, so, is that the coach? Is that the players?”

Walton: “It’s the coach.

Pasch: “So you’re not a Ben Howland fan?”

Walton: “No.”

To Pasch’s credit he followed up with asking Walton whether or not Howland’s time in Westwood was running out, which is when Walton noted that things would be different if he were the one in charge.

Does that mean he would fire Howland if in the position of athletic director Dan Guerrero? He didn’t come out and use those words, but how different can things be without making such a move?

There’s no doubt that UCLA, who moved to 17-6 overall and 7-3 in Pac-12 play with the 59-57 win over the Huskies, has some talented players led by freshman Shabazz Muhammad. But what they don’t have is depth.

The decisions of Tyler Lamb and Joshua Smith opened things up in regards to guys getting more playing time, but it also left the Bruins with a rotation that at best has seven players. Freshman forward Tony Parker, who struggled with various injuries early in the season, still has not reached the point where he can contribute on a consistent basis.

Yet even with this lack of depth UCLA is averaging 71.3 possessions per 40 minutes, a number that ranks 26th nationally and first in the Pac-12 according to statsheet.com. That likely leads to the way in which Howland uses his timeouts, looking to conserve the legs of his most important players (four starters played 30 minutes or more last night), which has been another point of contention for Walton.

The Bruins are right in the thick of the Pac-12 race but there’s been the prevailing feeling that this group has “underachieved.” Maybe people have been spoiled by two things in evaluating this group: how dominant Kentucky’s youngsters were last season, and by how dominant Coach Wooden was during the glory years in Westwood.

With a second game against first-place Arizona in early March (UCLA won the first game in Tucson) the Bruins could very well end up winning the Pac-12, and there’s the NCAA tournament ahead of this group as well. But that doesn’t seem to be enough for some folks.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.