- UCLA destroyed Notre Dame 89-63
- UC Riverside held home court on UC Davis 58-53, getting back to .500 in conference
- Illinois manhandled Purdue (albeit without Robbie Hummel) 66-48
- The Kings went on a 10 minute blitz that took care of the New Jersey Devils, 3-1
- And the Lakers went into Cleveland and showed the Cavs that the best are in the West with a 101-91 victory
UCLA has been absolutely rolling since dropping a tough road game in Seattle (which I didn't see, for various reasons). Since that game they've beat Berkeley, Stanford, U$C, and Notre Dame by an average of over 20 points per game, and none by fewer than 16 points. In that stretch, seven different players have scored in double figures, and all but Jerime Anderson have done it multiple times. That's what you call offensive depth. They made over 50% of their shots in three of those games (over 60% against Stanford), and have made almost 50% of their three pointers (27/55). Suddenly there are a lot fewer people complaining that Ben Howland can't coach offense.
This really looks like the Best offensive team the Bruins have had in the Howland era. They have four starters who can shoot from long range with well above average efficiency. They can't just make threes, they're legitimate three point threats every time down the floor. The fifth, Alfred Aboya, has developed a mid-range game seemingly out of nowhere, and now he's a guy that opposing defenses really need to pay attention to. He dropped 19 on ND, making 9 of his 12 shots.
The best thing about the blowouts is that the freshmen have been able to get a lot of game minutes. The trio of Malcolm Lee, Anderson, and Drew Gordon averaged about 12 minutes per game each over that stretch, and looked good doing it. That sort of experience will be important in March. If you go back to November, the conventional wisdom was that this team would not hit its stride until about this time, having dealt with the loss of three NBAers and integrating five freshmen into the rotation. That's happening now, and the Bruins look as good as they've ever looked. They have a go to player in Collison, but the best part about the way this team is playing now is that any player should be able to hit a shot in crunch time. They didn't show that against ASU, but the team that's played the last two weeks in no way resembles the team that couldn't find the basket with a map and compass a few weeks ago.
Up and down lately. Home and road. Jekyll and Hyde. But today against Purdue, they led wire to wire against a pretty good team and completed the season sweep. During their rough spots on the road, the Illini have really had trouble executing their offense. This is a team that gets a ton of baskets directly by way of the assist. At last check they led the nation in percentage of baskets on which they were credited with assists. But against Minnesota, they just didn't move the ball at all. The Wisconsin game was better, but they couldn't make shots.
Today they moved the ball very well, and they made their shots. The Illini recorded 21 assists on 25 field goals, and led from wire to wire. Purdue threatened a few times, but the Illini never let the lead get below four, and they put the Boilermakers away with a 23-9 run midway through the second quarter. The best sight today was Trent Meacham making three of five from long range. He's struggled lately, and they need him to produce if they're going to be successful. They're already playing one limited threat guard, and they can't afford to play two.
Speaking of Chester Frazier, he did a marvelous job on E'Twaun Moore. The sophomore averages 14 points per game, and Frazier held him to six points on 2/9 shooting. On the offensive end, Mike Davis had a great game, dropping in 14 for the Illini, and Mike Tisdale's ability to hit the mid-range jumper consistently really made the Boilers pay for hedging on screens up high.
The Illini start three sophomores, and they look like they'll be able to absorb the losses of Frazier and Meacham next season. They're ahead of where we thought they'd be, and the future really looks bright.
Speaking of bright futures, the Kings have now won six of their last seven games. They had only won 17 of their first 44 games, but they've gotten themselves back into the playoff hunt in the crowded Western Conference.
You build from the net out, and the Kings had stocked the farm with goalie and defense prospects, but couldn't keep the puck out of their own net last year. This year, the kids are paying dividends. Jonathan Quick has been outstanding with a 2.38 GAA, and a .920 save percentage. He's grabbed the number one job, and he doesn't look like he's going anywhere. That's great news for Kings fans waiting on Jonathan Bernier, because if Bernier's going to get the job, he's going to have to be really outstanding. The question is who will still be in the organization next year. Quick's performance has started to make Bernier and Jeff Zatkoff look like very attractive trade bait.
On the defensive end, Drew Doughty has been their best blueliner all year. But the emergence of Kyle Quincy, the tough play of Matt Greene, and the return of Jack Johnson means the Kings have two thirds of their defense of the future playing and winning right now.
It took a while to get them going, but the offense is finally chipping in, and that's why the Kings are winning right now. The Kings average about 2.41 goals per game over their first 44. They've averaged four goals per game over their last seven, and have scored three or more times in all but one of those games. The game in which they scored less than three was a 1-0 win over Ottawa. They're young, they're fun to watch, and they're starting to win again. This is just the beginning for the Kings.
I'm not going to write about the Lakers or UCR, but rest assured, I'm very happy with those wins.
Finally, the inspiration for the title of this post: