3/23/2015 12:39:00 AM
So let's face it, your bracket is busted. Unexpected things happen often in the NCAA Tournament, but that's what makes it so exciting. The amount of brackets that had the UCLA Bruins going to the Sweet 16 were definitely in the minority.
But after a last minute upset win over SMU, and a steamrolling of UAB, the Bruins are set to face off with the Gonzaga Bulldogs for a chance to move on to the Elite 8. If they're going to beat the Bulldogs, they'll need star 19 year old Kevon Looney to step up in the spotlight.
Looney is a long, lanky, 6'9" power forward type with the versatility to play inside and outside. His reach extends to an amazing 9'2", with a wingspan of 7'3". We're talking go-go gadget arms. So it should be no surprise that he's an above average rebounder.
But Looney is a much better ballhandler and perimeter shooter for his size than most power forwards. Very possible he could transition into a large small forward in the NBA, but his offensive rebounding ability and overall skill set make him probably better suited for the 4.
His freshman season is almost sure to be a one and done. While Looney's game is still raw on both ends of the floor, he is an upside pick that could potentially guard a number of different positions at the pro level and has remained attached to the top 15 prospects all year with no dropoff, according to ESPN's Chad Ford. He is almost undoubtedly a lottery pick barring an unforeseen injury.
Looney finished the season with averages of 11.6 points and 9.2 rebounds per game, nearly putting up a double-double every night out for the Bruins. He also added a block and steal a night, and shot 43% from 3-point land. Not bad for a big man.
CBSSports.com's Sam Vecenie compared Looney's wingspan to a pterodactyl. In his best performance of the season, Looney had 27 points and 19 rebounds, racking up an impressive 10 offensive rebounds that was sure to grab NBA scouts' attention. But he's also had his share of duds, including a pair of tough games against the Arizona Wildcats.
The Cats were able to get Looney into foul trouble and force him into shots he's not ready to make consistently yet. Part of the gameplan against Looney at the moment is to leave him open and let him shoot. Boston Celtics fans saw this with Rajon Rondo, and while Looney can hit the three and has decent shooting mechanics, he still has a ways to go with his jumper before he'll be an NBA scorer.
Via Jonathan Givony of Draftexpress.com: Looney is a selfless teammate that is willing to do all the dirty work. He creates opportunities for his counterparts with great court vision for a forward. Undersized for a power foward by professional means, he'll need to hit the gym hard in the offseason if that is the plan for him as he doesn't have very much of a post game other than what is built off of offensive rebounds.
How much work he puts in will determine his ceiling. Difficult to tell at this point, but he could turn into a Lamar Odom type who can handle the ball and play 3 different positions, or he could wind up more like a Kris Humphries who just lives off of his rebounding & jump shooting abilities.
Some have even mentioned his name alongside the likes of Kevin Durant, but I think that may be a bit of an exaggeration. One way or another, there is a place in the NBA for Kevon Looney.
UCLA was hardly expected to make the NCAA Tournament let alone make it past the first weekend, but a freak play at the finish of their opening game against SMU gave them the upset and they haven't looked back since.
So far in the tournament, Looney, wearing a mask due to a facial fracture, has played much like he did all season for the Bruins. Doing nothing overly substantial, but averaging 8 points & 10.5 rebounds and providing them with a consistent and efficient force in the frontcourt.
Quite a few teams in the NBA would like that kind of consistency. His game is unpolished and he'll definitely be a work in progress in the NBA. But I don't think there's any doubt that he could become an effective rebounder & defender at the pro level immediately. His reach and athleticism are just too gaudy. Someone is going to take this kid in the top half of the first round, should it be the Celtics?
My own thought is that Boston's immediate focus should be on a rim protector like Willie Cauley-Stein or Myles Turner. But depending on where they're picking, Kevon Looney could be a steal for the Celtics. Especially if those Kevin Durant comparisons turn out to be true.
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Top photo Don Liebig
Masked top photo- John Locher AP
Arizona photo- Casey Sapio USA Today Sports
Bottom photo- Timothy D Easley AP
3/23/2015 12:39:00 AM