Tonight's game against Richmond probably won't be an especially memorable one for the UCLA men's basketball team. Barring an abnormally exciting game, it's just a final nonconference tune-up tonight at 7:30 at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.
But if the Bruins are able to play well and move forward, it could be seen as the turning point in a season that's been anything but tedious.
UCLA (6-5) can't turn the corner by beating Richmond, but if the preseason Pac-12 favorites do go on to win the conference, this game could be seen as the moment they turned the corner.
Coach Ben Howland told reporters during his pregame teleconference that the Spiders might run the Princeton offense as well as anyone in the country. Now, it's up to the Bruins to show the discipline and determination to shut it down.
There are a few remaining questions before we ring in Pac-12 play and the New Year.
How much better can the Wear twins get - and how fast can it happen?
- David and Travis Wear have both been hampered by injuries, so their progress, while quite impressive, could actually be better. Both are critical to the Bruins' goals this season but have room for improvement, especially on the glass. David is currently averaging six rebounds per game, while Travis averages 5.2 rebounds. Both should strive to be grabbing at least seven per game.
Should UCLA just accept Joshua Smith's conditioning will prevent him from being the dominant force he could be if in better shape?
- It's hard for me to question anybody's conditioning, but until Smith commits to a healthier diet and training regimen that helps him improve his stamina, he won't approach his immense potential. That means his teammates must understand he can't be relied on to be a scoring force. It also means the coaches must prepare accordingly. Give Howland and his staff credit for recognizing it and using a zone defense at times to give Smith (and his teammates) a chance to catch their breath on the defensive side of the court.
Has UCLA figured out what was going on with its perimeter defense earlier this year?
- If the Bruins have officially stopped giving up so many good perimeter looks, it means teams will have a much more difficult time scoring. Credit Tyler Lamb for getting healthy and stepping into the role of defensive stopper. Howland has pointed to him as a defense-first guard but that's not it. Norman Powell is making a great rebounding effort, while both seniors, Jerime Anderson and Lazeric Jones, are playing with urgency.