Thursday, January 24, 2013

UCLA vs. Arizona: Random Thoughts

-Is tonight a must win game? Well if your going into the #6 team in the country's home court and its a must win game, your not in very good shape.

-I just hate the idea of the must win game. It basically means everything is staked on one game. Your entire season, all your goals, your coaches job, everything on one game. And if all of that is flaky enough to come down to one regular season game, you obviously aren't going in the right direction.

-Don't get me wrong, its not that I don't believe the Bruins can't win tonight, because they can. But the goal for the season goes beyond that. Even if the Bruins lose tonight, the season ends in March, not tonight. The objective is to get better and better, and eventually, fix all the wrinkles and position yourself for a big run in the tournament.

-But UCLA absolutely can win tonight. Though there are only 8 scholarship players left on the roster, all 8 would make good contributions at any school, and I'd wager that 2-3 would start for any team in the country.

-It's really just the small things that are missing from this Bruin squad. The stupid turnovers, rebounding, easy missed shots, that's really it. Everything else has fallen into place. Unfortunately, that's the difference between an elite team and a good one. And it's usually the hardest to fix.

-From what I understand, Dan Guerrero really doesn't want to fire Ben Howland. The only reason he was eventually beginning to tip his hand was because after the Cal Poly loss, donors and alumni were blowing up the phones at the Morgan Center demanding a change. Those phones have since cooled, and Guerrerro is looking for any possible way to keep his coach. Basically, the only way Ben Howland goes is when the decision isn't up to Guerrero. The only way he really goes is if disaster strikes and donations are put to a virtual standstill.

-And this where athletic directors need to do a better job evaluating the situation. If your the AD of UCLA, and a sweet 16 appearance saves your coaches job, are you really sure you got the right guy?

-Problem for Guerrero is he's so far fired two football coaches and a Basketball coach. Furthermore, Howland has a bigger buyout than either of those three combined. It's human nature: look after yourself first.

-Shabazz Muhammad. The prodigal son. The savior of UCLA Basketball. He's going to have to show up. If I had to go by what I see, I would say that while Shabazz is a great NBA prospect, he is just that for right now, a prospect. Physical defenders have been able to force tough shots, and have been able to disrupt his rhythm. Solomon Hill of Arizona will provide no exception.

-Here are my issues so far with Muhammad. One, he is an above-average shooter, not a great one. He can be very streaky with his shooting. He mostly only goes left. He seems to have  mastered about three go to moves: the left handed floater, the turn around jumper in the low post, and his three point shooting. Thats not a knock, very few have such a vast arsenal, but he has to be more consistent. His numbers have been inflated in some games when his three point shot is on. When it's not, you'll more likely than not see nights like he had against Oregon. He seems to be very impatient in transition, looking to score himself even when that might not be the best option. Defensively, he's an effort guy, but he's only an average defender. Basically, he's only scratched the surface of what he's capable of. Problem for the Bruins, they need him to peak sooner rather than later.

-But Shabazz has always brought it when its time. Is it time tonight?

-Mark Lyons should have his way with the Bruins. Larry Drew II is a good defender, and one of the better ones on this UCLA team, but still not a great one. Arizona has a lot of matchup advantages in the post. If the Wildcat bigs are getting in post position often, it'll be a long night for UCLA.

-Kyle Anderson is going to have to have a big game. He's a special, special player and he'll need to use his outstanding court vision to get the ball in good spots. On the defensive end, he's going to need to sacrifice his body. He'll need to double down and crash the boards very frequently.

-For all that people talk about Arizona having matchup advantages, so does UCLA. UCLA is just about a walking mismatch offensively for any team they play. Can the Bruins take advantage?

-Bill Walton's been a trendy topic amongst Bruin fans. He calls it like he sees it, for better or worse. So when he's bashing Ben Howland and UCLA's style of play tonight, remember, Bill Walton can say these things because he's Bill Walton. His jersey is retired. And whether you like it or not, his voice is going to matter at UCLA.

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