A year ago, Michigan traveled west to Pauley Pavilion and faced UCLA in a battle of two of the top four offenses in the country. The first half lived up to the hype with the Wolverines leading 50-47 at the break in one of the most flawless offensive halves of the season.
Michigan couldn’t keep pace in the second and eventually lost 102-84. The Bruins scored 1.59 points per possession in Michigan’s worst defensive performance of the KenPom era.
On Saturday, they teams will meet up for a rematch in Ann Arbor (12:00 p.m., CBS) but both rosters look very different without 7 starters from last year’s game. he Bruins lost Lonzo Ball, TJ Leaf and Isaac Hamilton while Michigan is still trying to find a point guard and figure out how its new pieces fit together. The Bruins still have talent, including a pair of five-star freshmen, but their roster isn’t nearly as loaded as it was a season ago.
Last year’s UCLA team was one of the best passing and shooting teams in the country. This year the Bruins are still solid offensively, but they are an average passing team that does a better job of slashing to the basket than spreading the floor.
This year’s group has more size, but less shooting. Only 31% of UCLA’s shot attempts are threes and they connect at a slightly above average 36% clip. The Bruins still play fast (averaging 74.7 possessions per game, 22nd) and value the basketball. This team has also been far more aggressive getting to the free throw line, but shoots just 67% at the stripe. 23.1% of UCLA’s offensive possessions are in transition, a comparable rate to North Carolina, and they’ll be aggressive in pushing the pace.
UCLA’s defense doesn’t force many turnovers, but has been solid overall. The Bruins defend twos effectively, allowing just 44% shooting inside the arc, but they’ve been weak defending the perimeter. UCLA opponents are shooting 36% from deep and attempting 39.6% of their shots from the perimeter, both of those figures rank 200th or worse nationally. Steve Alford plays primarily man-to-man, but has rolled out a zone defense on 6.9% of UCLA’s defensive possessions.
Junior guard Aaron Holiday lit up Michigan a season ago at Pauley Pavilion, scoring 17 points on perfect 5-of-5 three-point shooting. Holday’s shooting numbers are down a bit early at 31% from three versus 40% for his career, but he’s adjusting to playing a larger role in the offense. Holiday is UCLA’s primary playmaker out of ball screen action and he also does a great job of finding his teammates out of the pick and roll.
Sophomore guard Prince Ali stepped into the starting lineup over the last few games. The 6-foot-3 guard is known for his athleticism and slashing. He’s shooting 50% from three on the season, but just 59% at the free throw line. He’s a 59% shooter inside the arc and is coming off of a 20 point, 4 assists performance against Detroit.
Freshman guard Jaylen Hands was the starter next to Holiday in the backcourt, but missed a game with a foot injury and has been working his way back up to full speed. Hands is an athletic guard who is shooting 48% on twos and 50% (11-of-22) on threes early on this season. He had a career night against Detroit (the Titans are not only one of the fastest teams in the country, they are one of the worst defenses in the country) and provides a dynamic scoring option in the backcourt.
Five-star freshman Kris Wilkes plays the three at 6-foot-8, 195 pound.Wilkes is a slashing athlete who is active on the offensive glass, blocks shots and gets to the free throw line. He’s a 49% two-point shooter, but he’s just 8-of-26 from three-point range (2 of last 17). A third of Wilkes’ offense comes in transition and another 20% comes cutting to the rim or off of putbacks. If you can turn him into a spot up shooter, then you’ve done the heavy lifting.
7-foot, 255 pound senior Thomas Welsh missed the game when Michigan was out in Westwood last December. Welsh is a mid-range specialist and he’s routinely been one of the best shooters from the elbows and baselines in college basketball. He’s a great rebounder on both ends and UCLA’s best shot blocker for good measure.
Another senior, 6-foot-11, 225 pound Hungarian Gyorgy Goloman starts next to Welsh. He’s more of a finisher around the hoop, but he brings more size and length to the lineup. Goloman will attempt the occasional three, but he’s 12-of-42 from deep for his career with half of the makes coming back in his freshman year.
6-foot-9 sophomore Alex Olesinski and 6-foot-9 freshman Chris Smith are the primary reserve options at the three and the four. Both players will attempt the occasional three but shoot around 30%. Olesinski is an efficient finisher (16-of-20) and an active offensive reboudner. Smith is shooting 50% on twos, but has had some turnover issues early on.
- 3-Point Gap: This is another game, similar to Michigan’s last two, that should feature a large three-point attempt gap. Michigan’s 3PA/FGA gap over its opponents is 18%, the 6th highest in Division I. UCLA’s opponents have a 3PA/FGA gap over 8.5% over the Bruins, which ranks in the bottom 50 places in Division I. Michigan will attempt more threes than UCLA on Saturday and will need to outscore the Bruins from deep.
- Size: UCLA ranks 5th nationally in average height and plays huge at the three, four and five spots. This isn’t a situation where the Bruins are going to go small to match up to Michigan because they just don’t have very many smaller players. Despite the size, they are just a good offensive rebounding team and the question will probably be how well their bigs can adjust to guarding Michigan on the perimeter.
- Back to the zone? John Beilein threw out a 2-3 zone for 5 or 6 possessions at Ohio State on Monday night and I wonder if that is something we might see more of over the next couple of weeks. UCLA has a lot of size and not a lot of shooting ability and playing zone could help hide some defensive mismatches that have plagued the Wolverines this fall.
KenPom has Michigan ranked 44th and UCLA ranked 43rd, so the numbers like the Wolverines at home by a final score of 75-72. This is one that would be very nice to have for John Beilein and his staff to bolster the non-conference schedule ahead of a trip to Texas on Tuesday.