UCLA Basketball: Bruins Must Balance Attack for Successful Tournament

Josh BenjaminCorrespondent IMarch 10, 2013

Mar 9, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; UCLA Bruins head coach Ben Howland speaks with his players during a second half break in play against the Washington Huskies at Alaska Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The UCLA Bruins are in a prime position to have a great Pac-12 tournament and subsequent NCAA tournament, but not unless they can diversify their attack.

Nothing against head coach Ben Howland, but he seems all too content to get the ball in star freshman guard Shabazz Muhammad's hands when crunch time rolls around. It's hard to blame him for doing so, as Muhammad leads the team in scoring with 18.1 points per game and has shot a fine 41.5 percent from three-point range.

In fact, Muhammad's prowess for scoring has played a key role in UCLA ranking 25th in the nation in scoring.

However, despite what Kemba Walker's heroics of 2011 may suggest, one man cannot carry a team to victory in the big dance. Basketball is a team game, and the squad that best exemplifies that is usually the last one standing.

Just look at last season's Kentucky Wildcats. From Anthony Davis to Doron Lamb, everyone on that team knew their role and chemistry was sky high. It's no wonder that the team managed to win it all despite its key players being freshmen.

That isn't to say that communication on UCLA is bad. In fact, it's among the best in the nation. Led by Larry Drew II's 7.8 assists per game, the Bruins rank sixth in assists with 17 per game.

That all being said, if UCLA does indeed want to make a statement starting in its conference tournament and into the national one, the strategy is simple: use all weapons to maximum capability.

This means that while it is important for Muhammad to get involved, it is even more so that Jordan Adams be as well. Muhammad's fellow freshman is averaging 15.1 points per game, and is just another go-to guy for Drew II to rely on.

The same can be said for leading rebounder (nine RPG) Kyle Anderson and big man Travis Wear, both of whom can be solid offensive options in the paint.

Look at it this way. Suppose UCLA is in a key tournament game, be it the Pac-12 or national tourney, and Muhammad suddenly goes cold. He may be the team's top scorer and lead the Bruins in field-goal attempts, but continuing to get him the ball and hoping for the best is not the answer, should that situation come to be.

Rather, Howland needs to start drawing up plays that don't call for Muhammad to put the team on his back in crunch time. The key to surviving an important game is preparation, and UCLA has the tools to be better prepared than any other squad. By diversifying their attack, they give themselves a distinct advantage and become all the more dangerous.

Otherwise, just how Brigham Young University was with Jimmer Fredette, the attack becomes predictable, and a promising team immediately becomes sunk.