April 3, 2006

Surprise!

my brother asked me today why ucla seems to get no love from the "experts." it seems that, for their fourth game in a row, the bruins will enter tonight's game as the underdog. this must be somewhat strange for the selection committee considering they gave ucla a higher seed than all but one of those four teams. i thought for a while about this topic. indeed, it seems like the experts have all jumped on the gators bandwagon. i read the articles on espn by doug gottlieb and pat forde. i read the simulated result. and i listened to a two-minute standard dickie v rant. all of them picked florida. gene wojciechowski was the only espn writer pimping the bruins. the answer that i've come up with? east coast bias. before you chalk me up to another crazed west coast fan, let's go over why i think that: all of the talk on saturday night, all over sports radio and the internet, was how surprising ucla's performance was. let's recap: they put up a 59-45 drubbing on lsu that wasn't nearly that close. the talk centered around: 1) how stingy ucla's defense was, and 2) how impressive (and surprising) the offense looked. listening to this banter made a pac-10 fan like myself wonder: "have you watched a single ucla game outside of the tournament this year?" while i drove with ivy on saturday night i even yelled at the radio several times calling a host an idiot for spouting off about how "surprising" ucla was. why are they idiots? 1) how stingy ucla's defense was: this was, of course, a ucla team that held high-flying memphis to a similar 45 points last saturday. why exactly was the national media surprised by the 45 lsu put up the other night? in the second half of the gonzaga game, they held the bulldogs to 29 points even though all i can remember from most it was adam morrison and jp batista making big shot after big shot. the fact that the national media was surprised by ucla's ability to stop a team of freshmen and sophomores with no dependable backcourt (after they had put the clamps on a much more athletic and talented memphis team) speaks only to the media's lack of knowledge about ucla. as the lsu and ucla players divulged after the game, lsu wasn't ready for ucla's intensity on defense. their intensity allows their wing defenders to get up into the space of wing players while still containing dribble penetration and expecting help. anybody who has ever played basketball against someone who played that physically against you can describe the difficulties the style causes. 2) how impressive (and surprising) the offense looked: ucla scored 59 points on saturday. great. now exactly how impressive is that considering it was the seventh-lowest point total they put up ALL SEASON? i understand that they looked good on offense, but if any of the national media had watched them this season, they would know that ucla's impotence on offense against memphis and gonzaga (first half) was the anomaly, not the norm. did they really think that ucla won 31 games at that point by averaging 50 a game? of course the most telling details have been the backhanded compliments of ucla as a "tough, big east or big ten style team." i always used to hate similar statements about montgomery's stanford teams. what exactly about playing tough defense is specific to the big ten or the big east? even during dickie v's prediction of a florida win, he touted ben howland's tough defensive style that "he brought from the big east." news flash, dickie: ben howland came from the west coast (oregon). he coached on the west coast (gonzaga, ucsb, northern arizona). he developed his style on the west coast. and THEN he went to the big east (pittsburgh). sorry to disappoint you. maybe ucla won't win tonight, but i think they will and i'm going to explain this one more time: ucla shortens games and that's how they win. they play defense by being physical at all five positions, bumping EVERYONE, moving their feet very well, blocking out effectively, and helping often. does this leave them susceptible to teams with creative and athletic wing players who can break down players off the dribble and create (brandon roy, washington; adam morrison, gonzaga; and maybe taurean green, florida)? yes. does it allow them to cover up some deficiencies? yes. they push the ball to try to get easy shots against undisciplined defensive teams (lsu). does this prove useless when a team like gonzaga provides good court balance? yes. they enjoy using the whole shot clock to get a shot because it makes the other team play defense for 35 seconds and that, in and of itself, is difficult. they rely on their guards at end-of-shot-clock situations and aren't afraid of shot clock violations because it helps their tempo much more than a quick, unbalanced shot will. will they win tonight against florida? i'm pretty sure they will, but if they don't it will be because the florida guards are effective attacking the basket, hitting outside shots, and creating opportunities for their big people. if florida doesn't do that, i think we're looking at a ucla championship. hopefully the national media won't be too surprised. **edit: well, that didn't work out too well. was anybody else stunned by the way that game played out?

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2 Comments:

At 4/03/2006 11:56:00 PM, Blogger Brian said...

I was a little surprised, but mostly apathetic. What I want to know if why everyone had a Xanga blog to start with.

 
At 4/03/2006 11:56:00 PM, Blogger Brian said...

is, not if

 

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