Scouting Report: UCLA

Sports Illustrated's Luke Winn asked an anonymous assistant coach from one of UCLA's earlier opponents for a scouting report.

It's an interesting and honest assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of this Bruin team.

Here are some excerpts:

"UCLA is not a scoring machine, and the stuff they run is simple -- but they execute it all really well, by setting hard screens and being very physical. That's what makes them difficult to guard. At the end of day, though, they are not a very good outside shooting team. [Darren] Collison can get it going a little bit, but [Josh] Shipp has been struggling. [Russell] Westbrook is an average shooter at best, and [Luc Richard] Mbah a Moute doesn't shoot it well. Defensively you have to make sure you protect the paint and make them shoot as many contested jump shots as possible.

~snip~

"The flip-side of this is you aren't going to score on them that easily, either. So it becomes a rugby scrum, or a boxing match where you punch and continue punching. Because everything Mbah a Moute isn't offensively, he is defensively. He gets after it on defense. Westbrook gets after it, too; Collison gets after it, Mata gets after it. All those guys who aren't good on offense are great on defense. What UCLA is trying to do is overwhelm you physically in every phase of the game: denial, on the ball, setting screens, getting through screens, bumping cutters, hard shows on on-ball screens.

"More than anything, it becomes time-consuming to score against them. The No. 1 way you can do it is to get to the foul line, so you have to go right at them. If you shy away and shoot jump shots, you won't ever score. If you go back and look at the games they lost, they always have guys foul out. And in games that [opponents] shy away and take all jumpers, it's like blood in the water. They play just like the Detroit Pistons or the Knicks of old, in that they're programmed to be aggressive on every player. The detriment of that, though, is if they run into a ref with a tight whistle and get in foul trouble, they're just going to keep fouling you. They can't just turn that aggressiveness off mid-game, so you'll end up shooting 30 free throws. But sometimes, if you've got a West Coast crowd in their favor, the ref will start feeling bad because he's sent the other team to the line for 30, and might start compensating.

"Collison and Westbrook are such good defenders because they have great quickness and size, and long arms to create deflections. But when you're trained to be the attacker, as they are, when somebody attacks you, you're going to foul them. You want to put them in situations where they have to foul. Westbrook, especially, is really good if you're in passive mode, but when teams are aggressive and square up and go at him, he'll reach from behind, he'll get beat. When somebody is being the aggressor against him, it's hard for him.

It's a really interesting read, click the link above and check it out. There are also similar scouting reports for the other number one seeds.

HT to OdetoTyus, who linked this at Bruin Report Online earlier today.

UPDATE:

I think the number-one seed I'd least like to face is Kansas. Which sort of surprises me, because I would have thought it would be North Carolina. But, with all due respect to a really good Carolina team that I think is playing very well right now, we have a lot of bodies who can play Hansborough one on one (Love, Aboya, Mata, Keefe, even Luc). Not all will stop him, but we can play him man up and we have a great double team to throw at him.

And I think if you stop Hansborough, you're halfway there with Carolina. I think our defense overall matches up well with them, at least in respect to the other number one seeds.

Kansas, has a lot of weapons. According to the report, they play with great intensity. They have a balanced attack, so it seems, or at least they have a lot of guys who can hurt you.

Mostly, though, if the report is right, they won't panic or fold if they get a lead and we turn up the heat on defense.

All things equal, I'd prefer to play Memphis.

Which is not to say I don't think they are very tough, because I do think they are very tough.

But I think our defense matches up best with their attack. They do a lot of damage off of the dribble drive and we have two very good defenders who could play Rose man up in Collison and Westbrook. I also think that we are a strong defensive rebounding team who could neutralize their ability to grab weakside offensive rebounds (though I think Florida hurt us that way the last two years. We would double in the post, then they would hurt us on the weakside.)

All in all, the top four teams are all very good. None would be an easy match-up. But, based on this article, I'd most like to face Memphis, least like to face Kansas and have a fair amount of confidence against North Carolina.

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