Before we get into it, a bit of housekeeping. We’re going to try a new thing with postgame articles for basketball this year. Postgame threads are going to go up fairly quickly to give you all a basic rundown of the game and place to talk. We may experiment with how this info is sent out to you - Substack has options for recording audio and video that we haven’t really taken advantage of, and we want to see if this is a viable way of delivering content to you guys in the future. Then, usually around Monday or Tuesday, there will be a longer article talking about the week and breaking down the big things.
We’re making these changes in an effort to provide more meaningful and timely basketball coverage, but this is going to be a pretty active experiment while we work out some kinks. Any and all feedback is appreciated, and as usual thanks for reading!
With that out of the way, I think the headline kinda covers things.
A lot of the focus for UCLA basketball this year was on the new faces coming into the program and how they would integrate into Coach Mick Cronin’s system, so much so that it appears we all forgot about the fact that there was still one starter from last year returning. Well, that starter decided to use the opening game of the year to remind everyone that he exists, as Adem Bona went off for 28 points, nine rebounds, and four blocks as the Bruins beat St. Francis 75-44.
The Bruins seemed to make a concerted effort to run offense through Bona throughout the game, and you could see the evolution of his game from the beginning, with Bona looking confident with the ball in his hands in a way that he was not last year. His passing has improved tremendously, and he’s a much more confident shooter, even attempting a three-pointer early. That confidence was most apparent at the free-throw line, where Bona went 8-11. Maybe most importantly? Bona only had 3 fouls, allowing him to play a large portion of the game.
Bona’s excellent game covered up that much of the team is still a work in progress. Dylan Andrews was generally fine running the offense, but going 2-8 from the field is not ideal. Same with Lazar Stefanovic, who ultimately got to 11 points on 5-10 shooting but seemed hesitant to pull the trigger much of the night. And this doesn’t even get into the poor starts for imports Aday Mara and Jan Vide, who looked out of sorts and like they were swimming for much of their time on the court, understandable as they adjust to the college game.
One last thing before closing out. There was a lot of questions about what kind of lineup the Bruins would trot out, and through one game, it really appears that UCLA is going to seriously commit to a two-post look. Defensively, I felt the Bruins looked pretty good, especially when Bona was paired with Kenneth Nwuba and Brandon Williams (who played a surprisingly large amount in a game where Cronin was sparing with his bench minutes), as Bona is athletic enough to defend outside against fours. Offensively, the Bruins likely need better outside shooting than they got in this game to make it truly work, but the bones are there to make it work.Go Bruins!!!
Thanks again for supporting The Mighty Bruin. Your paid subscriptions make this site possible. Questions, comments, story ideas, angry missives and more can be sent to @TheMightyBruin on Twitter.
Dimitri, just quick feedback on your new "format" suggestions: You all do a great job with your thorough, insightful coverage. Any way that makes you feel comfortable getting the information and your analysis to us is perfectly fine by me. Appreciate the effort you put into this.
Interesting postgame comments from Cronin - he was unhappy with what he called the selfish play of the team. Also, Fibleuil is recovering from a wrist injury which limited what probably would’ve been his super limited minutes given his substitution patterns for the freshmen last night
Attending last night's home game was a refreshing change for me in light of our football malaise. Crowds were excited too. They needed it badly also. I exchanged high fives, greetings with a few couples who have been sitting in the same area the past few seasons. The minute they saw me approaching, they started chatting " *** must go " in unison just to tease and taunt me jokingly. Everyone looked at me and laughed approvingly. To a person, they all raised their thumbs. I felt good. I knew I was right all along and now people agreed.
As for the game itself, your folks' comments watching it on TV matched what I saw in person except that whatever the shortcomings observed, we didn't think much about it. This is a brand new team playing its first preseason game at home. Any missteps made, coaching strategies observed did not seem to concern the Pauley crowds last night. We only wanted to see the team first hand, for good or bad and playing against a little known St. Francis from somewhere, do you think we would lose ?? Our coach is Cronin, not Alford, dude !
We did talk about Bobby Knight. To me, the past is the past. I only wish we had hired the guy who went to coach at Louisville ( Wooden's former assistant ) instead of Gene Bartow. Then Knight would not have the chance to annihilate, embarrass UCLA twice on national TV all within the same season. If you are my contemporaries, you know well what I am talking about.
Is there another football game on this Saturday ? Win or lose, this will be the prelude to the grand USC massacre I am dreading. I hope I am wrong. Washington beat them. The team is playing not what their fans have expected. Why not take out the Kelly bunch - Brady's Bunch is long gone - for a change. This will be the game of redemption for the Trojans. Jarmond, you still think you did the right thing with the extension, aka reprieve ???????????????????
IMO, it was too difficult to assess whether or not the Bruins have the talent or cohesiveness to become a Final 4 team. I was not happy based on what I saw.
The Bruins played far too sloppy for my liking. For a team who has been practicing for 2 months, it sure didn't look like it. The pace and the playmaking was far too erratic. The passing was poor. Way too many shots were forced. The Bruins couldn't get players in position or execute the passes to create good shot opportunities.
With so many young players on the team, they need a floor general and neither Andrews or Mack looked ready to assume that role. Within the first 5 minutes of the game, I was wishing Tyger Campbell stuck around for another season. If I remember correctly, UCLA only scored in transition off 2 of the 21 Red Flash turnovers and for the most part, looking as if they had never run a fast break ever.
The only guy who looked like had had a clue about the game of basketball was Lazar Stefanovich. Yes, Adem Bona had a good game, but I can't take it too seriously because St Francis couldn't match his size. He missed too many chippies mixed in with a couple of ugly shot attempts. The footwork looked good, but how good will it look against guys like Ballo, Edey, Iwachukwu, etc?
Bona has to learn how to play a calculated, under control game if he wants to be better than an Oscar Tscheibwe or Christian Koloko. He has to become a multi-faceted player who can shoot, pass, rebound, and defend if this team is going to contend for a championship. Emulating Shaq is not a good path for him to follow.
Nwuba obviously put in the work this summer. His footwork is also better, he might be in better shape, and he actually poses a threat on both ends of the floor. But if Kenneth Nwuba is still the starting PF by the time the Bruins play Marquette, that is going to speak volumes about the readiness of the freshmen. Until Nwuba proves he's no longer a foul a minute machine, he should be coming off the bench. The Bruins are going to need at least 2 players from the group of Berke, Ilane, and the two Williams to step up and be key pieces in the rotation.
I trust Cronin to get this team on the right path moving forward. But from what I saw yesterday, he's got his work cut out for him. He's lost the collective brilliance of players like Jaime, Tyger, Singleton, and Clark, all guys who understood roles and execution on the basketball floor. He's going to need a ton of patience, not something he's known for, so this might be new ground for him as well.
We have 2 more cream puffs on the schedule before the real games begin, so these players need to get in the film room with the coaches and fix their on-court mistakes.
I am listing to the USC game because there is nothing on, and it is very delayed. Suc can't even have an up to date radio? They really suck!