UCLA Introduces Steve Alford

After two tough days, what’s next for UCLA at the point?

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On Wednesday 5-11 point guard Jordan McLaughlin verbally committed to attend USC, picking the Trojans over crosstown rival UCLA. And if that wasn’t enough for UCLA head coach Steve Alford, Quentin Snider picked Illinois on Thursday evening.

The question: how much of a bind does this put the Bruins in when it comes to the point guard position in 2014?

Well, that depends on what they get from the position in 2013-14.

At this point the Bruins have three options, with two being freshmen. There’s Bryce Alford, who was committed to attend New Mexico before his father accepted the position at UCLA, and he put together some excellent numbers as a high school senior. Alford averaged 37.7 points, 8.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game last season, earning Gatorade New Mexico Player of the Year honors as a result.

The other freshman would be Zach LaVine, who was considered to be one of the top combo guards in the country in the 2013 graduating class. He averaged just 2.5 assists per game as a senior however, doing the majority of his damage as a scorer (28.5 points per game). While both are talented neither has played a game at the collegiate level, and this could be a cause for concern amongst the Bruin faithful.

That third option: using sophomore guard/forward Kyle Anderson as a point forward now that leading assist man Larry Drew II is out of eligibility. Anderson finished last season second on the team in assists, posting an average of 3.5 helpers per game. Add to that the fact that he led the team in rebounding (8.6 rpg) and was second in steals (1.8 spg), and it’s pretty clear that the New Jersey native is UCLA’s most versatile player entering the 2013-14 campaign.

UCLA has three options this season, but the problem is that not one of those options is the clear-cut solution to their question at the point. Given the shrinking pool of available talent at the point guard position in the 2014 class, UCLA will need someone to step forward and grab control of the offense with an eye towards the future. Of the top 20 point guards on 247Sports.com’s composite rankings list just four are uncommitted, with Tyler Ulis scheduled to announce his decision Friday.

The other top prospects remaining are Tyus Jones (he’s already begun taking official visits, and UCLA wasn’t among his choices), Dante Exum, Alex Robinson (officially visiting Texas A&M this weekend), and Lourawls Nairn (according to reports earlier today he’ll be visiting Michigan State this weekend).

There’s also the transfer and junior college markets from which to land a quick fix (UCLA reeled in Lazeric Jones from the JUCO ranks a couple years ago), so UCLA isn’t without hope. But for as important as the point guard question is for the 2013-14 season, it’s even more important for UCLA in regards to the long-term future of the program.

Rutgers hoping new duo can bring a spark

of the Ohio State Buckeyes against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights during their Big Ten conference game at Rutgers Athletic Center on February 8, 2015 in Piscataway, New Jersey.
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Rutgers has struggled to achieve success on the floor the last few years and head coach Eddie Jordan is hoping that some talented newcomers can help start a turnaround. With the start of practice, local media saw some of the Scarlet Knights’ early practice and Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press noted that the duo of freshman point guard Corey Sanders and junior college forward Deshawn Freeman were getting a lot of burn together.

With both incoming players being four-star prospects, it’s hardly a surprise that Jordan would see what the two were capable of. According to Carino, it meant a lot of Sanders driving and forcing the defense to collapse before finding Freeman.

“It seems like coach always has us on the same team,” Freeman said to Carino. “Ever since we’ve gotten here, he’s trying to get us to play together.”

Carino also notes that since Rutgers is deeper, longer and more athletic in general this season, the team could do more with a pressing defense to help create turnovers.

While Rutgers still faces an uphill climb in the Big Ten, they at least have some exciting pieces that will be in place for a few seasons.

LSU looking into starting lineup options

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - MARCH 7:  Head Coach Johnny Jones of the LSU Tigers watches his team play during a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bud Walton Arena on March 7, 2015 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The Tigers defeated the Razorbacks 81-78.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
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LSU football and Leonard Fournette are off to a strong start this fall, but the beginning of October also means that college hoops is right around the corner. If you’re a Tigers basketball fan, you also have plenty to be excited about on the hardwood this season with the arrival of a loaded freshman class headlined by forward Ben Simmons.

While the versatile Simmons has solidified a spot in the starting lineup for next season, it’ll be interesting to see how head coach Johnny Jones uses the rest of his talented freshmen. In a story from Sheldon Mickles of the New Orleans Advocate, he looks into some potential LSU starting lineups.

Freshman guard Antonio Blakeney, a McDonald’s All-American with Simmons, is also expected to start, but does another talented freshman guard, Brandon Sampson get a shot to start? And what of Arizona transfer Craig Victor when he’s eligible to play in December?

Mickles believes the early favorite for starting lineup is guards Tim Quarterman, Keith Hornsby, Blakeney, Simmons and center Darcy Malone. When Victor returns, Mickles said Victor could push Simmons into the “center” position, which would be a matchup nightmare on the opposition because Simmons would be very tough for many college centers to defend.

Sampson also gets a mention from Mickles of having the potential to start down the line. Overall, a good problem to have for Jones and he’ll have to experiment to see which lineups are giving him the most. Having a productive starting five is nice, but I’m sure Jones would love to find the five players he wants to close with.