Saturday, April 05, 2008

Final Four Preview: UCLA vs Memphis

Oh my as Dick Enberg would say. These four teams are hot and these four matchups promise (on paper) to be very exciting and dramatic! We start with the first game, tipping off at 3pm pacific (6pm eastern) on CBS. More on the TV stuff, check our TV schedule.

The History
While the most memorable game is perhaps that NCAA Final between John Wooden's and Bill Walton's Bruins and Memphis State back in the day, the most recent matchup was the 2006 Elite 8 slugfest that took the game back 500 years. In that game, UCLA beat up and short-circuited the game, taking out the Tigers, and winning with the first to 50 wins mentality.

During the press conferences, Ben Howland promised that this would not be another slugfest. This promise coming from the man that brought us the Texas A&M vs UCLA slugfest just two weeks ago, and that game was played in Anaheim even, which was a near-home-court for the Bruins!

Defending Kevin Love
One of the big keys for UCLA is Kevin Love, which we like to call "Beached Whale" because of his size. Perhaps hitting another full-court shot in yesterday's practice was an omen for the Bruins, but if Calipari wants to reduce Love's impact on the game, he'll have to do a lot of things.

For one thing, he can't afford to use up Joey Dorsey's five fouls on Love. For another, if Joey Dorsey is on the perimeter chasing Kevin Love, it opens up the offensive glass for LR Mbah Mute, Westbrook, Keefe, et al and if that happens, Howland has already setup shop in Victory.

Another player that Calipari could try on Love for a few minutes and a few fouls is the "Dancing Bear", Pierre Niles. Niles hasn't been playing much before of the Memphis style and depth, but you saw in the Elite 8, the moment Dexter Pitman came in, Pierre Niles jumped in too. So we would expect perhaps some Niles tries to wash away the Love ;-)

The Battle of the Point Guards
It's no secret Ben Howland is scared of Derrick Rose. During yesterday's press conference, he accidentally called him Jason Kidd. Howland said "when they got Jason Kidd" meaning Rose. This was a stream of consciousness type of thing, not premeditated. And he has good reason to be scared of Derrick Rose. He is a bona fide Pontiac Game Changing Performer.

But Darren Collison can be one too. While not as powerful as Rose, Collison is the definition of a beep-beeper (Lavinism) with a perimeter shot. We doubt Darren is gonna spend too much time guarding Derrick Rose, unless of course Howland notices something he can exploit. We'll probably see Westbrook or Ship, or even LR Mbah a Mute on Rose, at least partially. Now if Howland could put Arron Afflalo in, or Jrue Holiday, he'd probably take that option right away :)

Defending Collison on the other hand will probably be done by cmte, as Calipari has many options, such as Rose, Kemp, CDR, and shutdown defender Antonio Anderson. Memphis's athleticism and versatility allows them to switch defenders on just about any player, other than Kevin Love of course. Andre Allen would have been a nice alternative, as he has something the others don't, he is a fire hydrant type guard with speed. And limited minutes would have allowed him to play with wreckless abandon. Good thing for the Memphis Tigers? Darius Washington is not walking through that do(or) (Pitino-speak) :)

The Other Forwards
Another critical aspect of the game is the performance of the Other Forwards. On one side we have James Keefe, LR Mbah a Mute, and the Wrestlers, Alfred Aboya and Lorenzo Mata-Real-Madrid. On the other side, we have the wiry Robert Dozier, the versatile Iowa State transfer Shawn Taggart and the powerful but undersized and inexperienced Jeff Robinson.

Points-wise Memphis looks to have the advantage, but we think that the most critical aspect will be rebounding. And perhaps the group that wins the rebounding game, could potentially be the one winning the game and heading to the "One Shining Moment" game on Monday!

They put baskets to score!
As the one and only Pete Gillen says. So apart from the aforementioned players, who else can be a factor in the game?

For UCLA, the struggling Josh Shipp would need to score. He doesn't have to make threes, he could discover his old ways by being a crafty player around the bucket, especially when Dorsey is out of the game or out of the paint. Westbrook is another scoring factor, whether it's fast-break points or jump shots. Points could be at a premium, so any scoring is good scoring.

For Memphis, CDR has to justify his name, as no doubt Howland will plot and scheme to surround Rose with ...thorns. CDR will also receive defensive attention, but that's where he has to showcase his craftiness and old man game and put points on the board. We think that if CDR scores 20 or more, Memphis has a good chance of winning the game - other things equal of course.

The bench has to provide some offense too, be it Taggart, or sharp-shooters Willie Kemp or D-Mack. Don't be surprised if Jeff Robinson plays some minutes in this game, especially if Howland goes to a smaller line-up with LR Mbah-a-MuTe as the power forward. Decision making has been an issue for Robinson, but he has the muscle to grind with the UCLA wrestling forwards.

Other Previews
There are plenty of other Final 4 previews on the net, here is a small sampling; Dallas Morning News, Seth Davis (video), and March Madness All Season.

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