Travis Wear

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Pac-12 Tournament: UCLA’s offense too much for No. 4 Arizona


Arizona found itself in an unlikely, and unknown, scenario in the Pac-12 tournament final: its defense was completely ineffective. UCLA came out and, possibly invigorated by a combination of butterflies and the oxygen pumped into the MGM Grand, proceeded to thump the Wildcats, 75-71 and claim the title.

The first twenty minutes were among the most entertaining during this conference tournament week, and even though the Wildcats were able to keep up with UCLA’s torrid scoring, Sean Miller’s squad hadn’t faced a team yet this year that didn’t fold under Zona’s grinding pack-line defense.

When Jordan Adams hit a three-pointer off a simple flare screen with 43 seconds remaining in the game, a shot that broke a 68-all deadlock, it wasn’t luck: Arizona just couldn’t stop UCLA today. Other than Adams’ three, the final minute was anticlimatic and sloppy, the opposite of what had been 39 minutes of pure basketball.

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Before delving into the game’s particulars, it’s necessary to mention how ruthless — in a good way — this rivalry between UCLA and Arizona has become. The two teams battled for every single possession, rebound, and loose ball — Travis Wear diving and nearly sliding from half court to end line should make ‘One Shining Moment’ even though the tournament hasn’t begun — and the intensity displayed by the fifteen participants was truly special. The first half offensive efficiency rating reflects the higher plane both teams operated on: 1.34 PPP (Arizona, on just 32 possessions!) and 1.25 (UCLA).

Since Brandon Ashley was waylaid with a foot injury, the play of Aaron Gordon has drastically improved, and the forward showcased the uniqueness of his game versus the Bruins. Gordon has now shifted to a true frontcourt role, operating from the interior while in the halfcourt, and his ability to be a triple threat has helped evolve his game as well as Arizona’s offense. Whether dishing to Kaleb Tarczewski for dunks, or using his height to find the other Wildcats on the perimeter, or simply operating off the bounce and getting to the bucket, Gordon has transformed into a bigger mismatch.

Yes, Gordon, and the rest of Arizona, missed a bunch of free throws — two of eight (and the team missed six of sixteen), to be precise — but Gordon has been making them in past games, and this figures to be a one-game blip rather than a significant issue that could preclude Arizona going deep into NCAA play.

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With the win, UCLA pulled ahead of Arizona as the Pac-12 best team. This offense, when it is humming, is so difficult to stop: even when the Bruins came down to Earth in the second half, they were still scoring 1.12 PPP. When compared to the offensive efficiency rate of Arizona’s three Pac-12 losses — each of which were around .90 PPP — it is clearer that the consistency and efficiency of UCLA’s buckets was unparalleled.

UCLA presents difficult covers at each position. The Wear twins were heroes of the short corner against UA, hitting jumpers whenever their defender tried to help a Kyle Anderson drive, and Tony Parker, the much maligned big who has become a new player under Steve Alford, grabbed several key rebounds and is a bear in the paint.

Regardless of the seed UCLA receives on Sunday evening, the Bruins will be a problem. The speed at which they operate (the team has hovered around 69 possessions this season), the improved play of Jordan Adams and especially Norman Powell, the aforementioned mismatch capabilities of the other Bruins, and the ability of Kyle Anderson to be a match-up dilemma for any player not named Aaron Gordon means UCLA will be one of those teams a top seed wants no business facing either of first two weekends.

Travis Wear diagnosed with appendicitis

Travis Wear
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Travis Wear’s season did not get off to an ideal start, as UCLA’s senior big man was hospitalized on Monday with appendicitis.

Wear started for the Bruins last season, averaging 10.9 points and 5.2 boards. The timetable for his return is unknown.

UCLA’s season begins on November 8th when they host Drexel at Pauley Pavilion, but the Bruins also have a scrimmage coming up on Wednesday evening against Cal State San Bernadino.

2013-2014 Season Preview: No. 21 UCLA Bruins

UCLA Introduces Steve Alford
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All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. The rest of our Top 25 Countdown can be found here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Last Season: 25-10, 13-5 Pac-12 (1st); Lost to Minnesota in the Round of 64

Head Coach: Steve Alford (1st season at UCLA)

Key Losses: Shabazz Muhammad, Larry Drew II, Josh Smith, Ben Howland (coach)

Newcomers: Zach LaVine, Noah Allen, Bryce Alford, Wannah Bail, Steve Alford (coach)

Projected Lineup

G: Zach LaVine, Fr.
G: Jordan Adams, So.
F: Kyle Anderson, So.
F: Travis Wear, Sr.
F: David Wear, Sr.
Bench: Norman Powell, Jr.; Tony Parker, So.; Noah Allen, Fr.; Bryce Alford, Fr.; Wanaah Bail, Fr.*, Isaac Hamilton, Fr.*

They’ll be good because …: There is a lot to like about the talent on this roster, and if Steve Alford can catch a couple of breaks in his first season in Westwood, the Bruins have a chance to put together a team capable of winning the Pac-12. Jordan Adams should be healthy coming off of his broken foot, and if Zach LaVine ends up being as good as the folks around the UCLA program believe, the Bruins should have a pair of talented scorers surrounding Kyle Anderson. That should allow Anderson to be more of a playmaker on the offensive end of the floor this season even if he isn’t the primary ballhandler.

The Wear twins are good players and known quantities, but UCLA’s front court could make a massive leap this season if Tony Parker actually got himself into shape. We’ve been down that road with big UCLA centers (Josh Smith anyone?), but Parker’s talented enough to be one of the best bigs in the conference. The x-factors will be Wanaah Bail and Isaac Hamilton, both of whom are waiting for an NCAA ruling to find out if they will be cleared this season.

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But they might disappoint because …: The biggest issue that UCLA has is that there really isn’t a point guard on the roster. Anderson wants to be a point guard, but he’s slow-footed and 6-foot-8. At this level, he’s a power forward that UCLA can run their offense through. He can be Draymond Green, and that’s a compliment. But it doesn’t mean that he will embrace that role. Outside of him, who can run the show for UCLA? LaVine and Bryce Alford are known more as scorers than they are lead guards. Norman Powell is certainly at his best playing off the ball. Larry Drew II had a bad reputation for what happened at North Carolina, but he had a very good season running the show for UCLA last year. It’s weird saying this, but UCLA is really going to miss him.

The other issue is whether or not Alford can make the pieces on this roster fit together. He coaches a similar brand of basketball as former head coach Ben Howland, in that he wants his teams to be physical defensively and relatively deliberate on the offense end. These aren’t kinds that he recruited into the program. This is a team that had issues last season living up to expectations and fitting in together on the court, and a new coach is supposed to come in and solve those problems? That’s a tall task.

Outlook: I really don’t know what to expect from this UCLA team. I could see them battling Arizona for the Pac-12 title, and I could see them missing out on the NCAA tournament entirely. Much of their success will depend on two things — whether or not Hamilton and Bail will be available for Alford to use this season, and whether Anderson and Parker improve as sophomores.

Here’s another thing to keep in mind: the Pac-12 is going to be as good as it has been since the likes of Kevin Love and James Harden were still collegians. What that means is that UCLA won’t have much in the way of margin for error; it’s not crazy to think that the Bruins could slide into seventh in the conference. Is that enough for UCLA to get a tournament bid? And if they miss out on the Big Dance, will some of the Class of 2015’s elite recruits from SoCal — Ivan Rabb, Tyler Dorsey, Aaron Holiday — drop UCLA from consideration?

Travis Wear re-injures foot in UCLA’s loss to Washington State

Travis Wear
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UCLA forward Travis Wear was cleared to play Wednesday against Washington State, but played just fifteen minutes in the Bruins’ 73-61 loss, appearing to have re-injured the same foot that has limited his availability in recent weeks.

Wear played just 15 minutes before being fouled around the rim and leaving the game with the injury. He returned to the UCLA bench, reportedly with a wrap on his right foot.

As for the Bruins, three major concerns emerged Wednesday night against Washington State, the first of which was a slow start shooting from the floor that remained throughout the game.

UCLA began 1-of-10 from the floor Wednesday, falling behind 17-2. They ultimately shot 39 percent from the floor and freshman Shabazz Muhammad was 4-of-19 from the field, including 2-of-11 from three-point range for 14 points. That leads into point No. 2: rebounding.

The Bruins were outrebounded by 23, outrebounded at that rate by a team that ranks 251st in the nation in that category. Part of that had to do with the absence of Wear, the team’s second-leading rebounder, but it also had to do with a lack of a patchwork of rebounders that usually helps UCLA to secure the glass.

And added to the shooting and rebounding problems, UCLA allowed the Cougars to shoot 49 percent from the floor, seven percentage points above the team’s average.

Now, is this a cause for long-term concern? Considering how well UCLA had played in the seven games previous, the answer would seem to be “no.” But some of the defensive problems and concerns about the lack of offensive flow first showed up during rough patches earlier in the season. UCLA will have a chance to bounce back Saturday against Washington.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

UCLA forward Travis Wear will not play Saturday vs. Arizona State due to concussion

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UCLA junior Travis Wear will not suit up for the Bruins Saturday when they take on Arizona State as he overcomes symptoms from a concussion he suffered Thursday in a win over Arizona.

Wear had six points in 11 minutes against Arizona, but did not play in the second half.

His absence could certainly hurt UCLA when it takes the floor against the upstart Sun Devils Saturday, as Wear had been averaging 16.7 points per game since the Bruins’ big win over Missouri on Dec. 28. That win over the Tigers seemed to jumpstart his season, when he went for 22 points on 11-of-20 shooting from the floor and grabbed nine rebounds.

Since center Josh Smith transferred mid-way through the season, the Bruins have had to compensate for a depleted frontcourt. Without Wear, freshman Tony Parker will likely see an increase in minutes, as will David Wear, Travis’ brother.

UCLA has rebounded from a slow 5-3 start to the season and has won 11 of its last 12 games. Much of that success has been due to the emergence of star freshman Shabazz Muhammad, as well an increase in the team’s offensive tempo.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

UCLA defeats Shanghai Sharks, 92-63, to improve to 3-0 on China trip

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The UCLA have won their third straight game in China, defeating the professional Shanghai Sharks, 92-63, Tuesday morning.

For the Bruins, Travis Wear led the way and finished with 26 points and eight rebounds.

“This whole trip has been a great experience,” Wear said in a release. “I have never been to China, but to come out here and experience the culture – the way that we have been embraced has been awesome.

“We know that they are missing some players. But, they gave us a fight and it was an awesome experience being able to enjoy this camaraderie and the way that this community embraced us.”

Freshman Kyle Anderson tallied a double-double of 21 points and 11 rebounds.

Anderson, a top-5 player from the Class of 2012 and New Jersey native, also added five assists while turning the ball over just once. After three exhibition games, he says he is beginning to understand fully the demands of basketball at the college level.

“I definitely learned that you have to play hard,” he said in a release. “There are no possessions off in college. Every time you are out there, you have to give your all. It all comes with being well-conditioned. You’ve just got to play hard every second that you’re out there.”

UCLA was missing perhaps its best player, 2012 recruit Shabazz Muhammad, who remained in the United States as the NCAA continues to investigate whether he took impermissible benefits during his recruitment.

For the full box score, click here.

UCLA now heads back to the US and continues preparations for its season opener against Indiana State on Nov. 9.

Photo Credit: UCLA Athletics

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_