Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Real UCLA Shows Up - Final Four x3

I don't fancy myself a great prognosticator. Anyone who read my NCAA Tournament predictions knows that's not true, but I would like to point out that after the WKU game, I wrote:
There's nothing about the recent play of either team that should make me feel confident about tomorrow's matchup with Xavier. That said, I think the Bruins will win, and while it won't be said and done until near the end, I don't think it will take overtime or a buzzer beater. It just has the makings of one of those games where everyone is convinced that Xavier is is going to really take it to UCLA, and the Bruins won't be able to respond, but when teams actually take the floor, the cream rises to the top. Get ready for all of the pundits to pick the upset. Those guys are usually wrong.
I'd say that was pretty spot on. That said, here are my thoughts:
  • People thought Texas A&M would be a wake up call. It wasn't. Texas A&M is a good team, and they gave UCLA all they could handle because they were solid and unafraid. The wake up call was the second half against Western Kentucky. And I can almost guarantee you that Ben Howland reminded them how easily a game can get away when you don't give everything you have.
  • Where are all the folks who say that UCLA gets all the calls? I wonder if they actually watched the last game. The officials were terrible. They called a very tight game on one end of the floor. Not that they let Xavier get away with murder, but they called so many non-fouls on UCLA that it was really embarrassing. In one sequence, they called what was a clear charge taken by Aboya a block, and shortly thereafter, they didn't call an obvious trip on what should have been a lay up by Russel Westbrook.
  • Speaking of Westbrook, someone needs to tell him that there's no rule saying that when you break a full court press, you have to go right to the basket. Teams play the press hoping to create turnovers, but the real goal is to speed up the game, to force quick shots, and to get you into their tempo. The way you beat that, if you're UCLA, is to get the ball into the front court and slow it down. Run the clock. Alter the tempo. I said this the other day, but we're talking about UCLA. They should be able to force teams to play at THEIR pace.
  • Xavier lost to Arizona State this year in Phoenix. In fact, they got hammered. Maybe they just got scared of the Sundevil on the court in tonight's game.
  • Once again, Josh Shipp underwhelmed on the scoreboard, but I thought he played an excellent game. Had two blocks, a big assist, played excellent defense, and made great decisions. He passed up some threes, not because he was tentative, but because he knew that controlling the pace and the clock was in UCLA's best interests at those times. It's a cliché, but he really did do ALL the little things.
  • Luc's ankle looked pretty good to me. 13 points, 13 boards, 3 assists, 3 steals!, some big baskets at big times, including a tough shot with about 8 minutes to go when Xavier was within 15 and just scored on their last possession.
  • Raftery and Lundquist mentioned that only UCLA's starters were scoring. They did it a few times. And James Keefe clearly didn't have the game he had against WKU. But the other night, I mentioned that UCLA beat Texas A&M with two, maybe two and a half players. Tonight all five starters were on the scoreboard in the first six minutes. Love, LRMAM, Collison, and Westbrook combined for 68 points, against what is regarded as a very fine defensive team. You don't need bench production when you can get that out of your starters. You need some minutes, and some defense, but I'm fine with the starters dominating the scoreboard if they can put up those numbers.
  • Mike Roll has a chance to be a member of five final four teams.
  • This was, in my opinion, under the circumstances, the finest performance of the season by the Bruins. They led every statistical category. Xavier stayed within shouting distance for a bit, and there was as surge of momentum when they pulled to within 12, but they never really let the game get into doubt in the second half.
  • Love was CBS's player of the game, but Collison was mine. 19 points, five assists, and three for three from three. Quite a comeback after what happened Thursday night. He was the difference maker tonight.
  • Memphis or Texas? Don't care right now. But keep this in mind. UCLA has three losses this year. They can look back and say that two were avenged (OK, so they avenged the Washington loss before they lost to them), but if they face Texas, they'll have a chance to say they've beaten every single team they played this year. But I think they have a better shot to win against Memphis (who I think will lose anyway).
  • It's nice to know that college basketball matters for another week.

1 comment:

waters96 said...

Good points all. I feel very good after this game. Now Luc's got another week to heal, and Ben's got a week to plan. I'm really looking forward to Saturday.