Tuesday Ben Ball Roundup

By now I'm sure you've all seen the Hubert Davis (UNC alum) segment on Sports Center predicting a WKU upset over the Bruins on Thursday. Davis' "analysis" (which strains the definition of the word) is part of an already tired MSM theme that seems to be the story de jour--that is, but for some grand conspiracy by NCAA referees, the Bruins would not have received a number 1 seed and would not have advanced to the Sweet 16.

While annoying, I hope these idiots keep blathering away about how "lucky" the Bruins are and how easy their bracket is. It's just a little more motivation to go out and step on WKU's throats.

On to the news.

Our favorite pro-UCLA beat writer Brian Dohn has a feature on WKU's style of play. The Hilltoppers will likely push the tempo and look for the 3:

Western Kentucky presses teams in hopes of forcing an up-tempo game and shoots plenty of 3-pointers.

It is a formula the Hilltoppers used to nearly beat Gonzaga and Tennessee earlier this season, had success with in defeating Michigan, and will use that guard-oriented breakneck approach when they make their first Sweet 16 appearance in 15 years.

...

The Hilltoppers have 6-foot-9, 190-pound sophomore Jeremy Evans and 6-9, 260-pound D.J. Magley to guard Love, and the lack of inside presence makes it even more imperative the Hilltoppers (29-6) force a fast-paced game with plenty of 3-point shooting, which they excel at.

Western Kentucky is 18th in the nation in 3-point percentage (39.4), and ranks 31st in scoring (77.3 ppg).

"They're a pressing team that runs and jumps all the time," Howland said. "They run and jump and double team the ball both in the backcourt, early, they'll also do it once you cross halfcourt. They will double all on-ball screens. They play primarily pressure man-to-man defense."

...

NBA scouts have been following Western Kentucky's leading scorer, 6-5 senior guard Courtney Lee, much of the season, and as Adras said, the 3-point shooting can be the "great equalizer" in the tournament.

Lee is shooting 40.4 percent from 3-point range and averaging 20.3 points per game. He scored 29 in the NCAA Tournament's second round defeat of No. 13 seed San Diego, but he is not the lone outside threat.

Senior guards Ty Rogers (37.4 percent) and Tyrone Brazelton (41.7 percent), both starters, and reserves A.J. Slaughter (44 percent) and Orlando Mendez-Valdez (39.4 percent) each shoot 3-pointers.

"Lee is just a big-time player, and then Brazelton is very, very good," Howland said. "He's about as quick as anybody we've seen all year."

Steve Greenburg of The Sporting News also chimes in regarding the respective teams' game plans for Thursday:

UCLA's game plan: This one is easy -- play the first half like it, you know, matters. The Bruins' potentially devastating tendency to fall behind early won't fly against Western Kentucky, which is unflappable on offense and has an absolute go-to guy in Courtney Lee, something Texas A&M clearly lacked. Some scoring from Josh Shipp would be nice for UCLA, but don't be surprised if Luc Richard Mbah a Moute dives into the fray with a big game.

Western Kentucky's game plan: The Hilltoppers must do whatever is needed to make UCLA point guard Darren Collison give up the ball, using half-court and full-court traps and lots and lots of ball pressure. The Hilltoppers also would be wise to let All-American center Kevin Love take all the perimeter jumpers he can hoist; WKU certainly can't handle Love on the low block. And there is reason to believe Shipp will continue to misfire. UCLA is so strong defensively that Lee might have to play decoy for shooters Tyrone Brazelton and Ty Rogers.

Many are wondering what is going on with Josh Shipp. According to Diane Pucin at LAT, Josh has been furiously working on his shot:

Howland spent 75 minutes in the gym supervising Josh Shipp as the junior forward, who went scoreless in Saturday's 51-49 win over Texas A&M, took 375 shots in an effort to bust out of his shooting slump.

I am confident that Josh will find his groove in one of these games. We all know what an absolute terror on opposing defenses he can become once that shot starts to fall.

Thursday is going to be a batttle. Everyone in the US that does not have UCLA connections is going to be rooting for the Cinderella Hilltoppers. Accordingly, if you can make it to Phoenix, help turn the arena Bruin Blue.

Go Bruins.

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