DCBruins gave a valiant effort to strike a sliver of positive note heading into tonight's game. We all need a shot of enthusiasm. However, that said DCBruins pointed out all the questions we don't have really good answers for. As a result it is hard to muster up a sense of excitement for our game against Arizona Wildcats in Tucson tonight. The Bruins will have Reeves Nelson and Nikola Dragovic back for tonight's game. I guess the good news is that we will get Nelson back, but the bad news is the team will most likely keep getting screwed with 30+ mins from Rag rest of the season.
It also doesn't help the fact that Nelson and Rag has no chemistry in the frontcourt, especially when it comes to defense. Our backcourt is still in shambles which is not going to get fixed rest of this season. Except for Tyler Honeycutt there is not one player in our team, who would give us a possible matchup against any of the Wildcats.
Moreover, morale will also be an issue with this team. I am not talking about the fanbase. Looks like Howland not only suspended Bobo Morgan for Thursday but also hinted at something more during his Tuesday press conference. From the LA Times (emphasis added throughout):
No excuses are made for Morgan, who has lost 30 pounds since arriving at UCLA overweight at 270.
Asked why he was out of shape, Morgan said, "We were mostly a zone team in high school and they'd wait for me. I'd take my time and the team would slow it down and wait for me and we'd go from there." He also said he had corrective knee surgery when he was in eighth grade.
Said Howland: "We knew there were some issues, but we didn't know the extent."
Yeah, I am sure calling out the sophomore center and other recruits (for lacking "character") is going to really fire up the team. Morgan is apparently not even making the trip down to Tucson with rest of the team and will fly in separately (wonder if he will get on the plane) to join them for the Arizona State game.
So I am guessing we will be seeing a lineup that will have Rags and Nelson in the lineup. I am sure Lane will get 15-20 minutes, get pulled as soon as he makes his first big mistakes, and then Howland will primarily go with Rags (and Jerime Anderson) in crunch time. It is going to be lot of fun staying up past 1 am to watch this game.
Speaking of fun, that is what Arizona is getting ready for this week. Sean Miller's young team has been predictably up and down with lots of freshmen getting huge mins (must be nice). They have set themselves up for a run though by getting a huge win in Stanford (thanks to freshmen) and two home games against UCLA and floundering Southern Cal to close out the regular season. From DailyWildcat.com:
The Wildcats, now 8-8 in Pac-10 play and 14-14 overall, are coming off a momentum-changing victory over the Stanford Cardinal. Miller said his team hasn't taken a large step forward since the Jan. 28 and Jan. 31 home wins against California and the Cardinal.
Now in a three-way tie for fourth place with both USC and UCLA, Arizona has the opportunity to roll into the Pac-10 Tournament with a three-game winning streak and a No. 3 seed.
"We look forward to playing all out, leaving it all on the court for the last two games," said senior Nic Wise. "Winning three in a row before the tourney can boost your confidence."
Wise, who has struggled down the stretch, will play his final two games in McKale Center this weekend. Against Stanford, the Wildcats were saved by freshmen Momo Jones and Derrick Williams while the elder Wise sat on the bench during crunch time.
The point guard finished with seven points and one assist, far away from his 14.4 point, 3.3 assist per game averages.
"When he doesn't play well, it's hard on this team," Miller said, adding that he expects to play Wise a good 34 minutes per game.
"I can't help but think we've worn him out a little bit," he added. "He's handled himself remarkably."
It is interesting that Arizona's head coach had no qualms about resting and even benching its senior point guard to go with freshmen energy off the bench. The contrast with what has been happening in Westwood is remarkable and it's this kind of aggressive mindset in terms of freshmen development, that has Arizona primed to regain its stature as the "Standard" of the Pac-10.
As for game strategy, the Bruins don't have much of a shot. Top to bottom except for Tyler Honeycutt, Arizona is a more athletic team. The Wildcat backcourt combination of Wise and Kyle Fogg will probably destroy Malcolm Lee, Jerime Anderson and Michael Roll. Last time around Lee did a good job in containing Wise holding him to 8 points, but Fogg killed us by torching us with his 25. It will be a matter of picking our poison and we don't have any good options.
Perhaps it will be a little different this time around because unlike last time when Howland stubbornly played man-to-man we are going to play zone. Yet, I don't see that strategy bringing any kind of relief because Arizona will most likely have us thoroughly scouted and figure out how to shred it by relentlessly going after Rag. Reeve's return will help as he will bring energy down low. However, as we have noticed in recent weeks, he also tends to get lost in defense a lot, and often becomes a black hole on the offensive end and a liability from the FT line. We can certainly cross our fingers thinking that the team will rise to the occasion and play with focus and effort for 40 minutes, but I am not going to hold my breath.
Another bright spot for the Bruins is emergence of Tyler Honeycutt. Honeycutt talked about his unselfish play with Jon Gold:
He is a passer at heart, wants to find the open man and is unselfish to a fault.
He sees four points on four attempts against Oregon - after 18 points and 10 attempts two days before against Oregon State - and he knows neither is enough.
"I think I should've scored more than four points against Oregon, but I still helped get us back into the game, passing, rebounding," Honeycutt said on Tuesday after his 13-rebound, nine-assist performance Saturday. "Sometimes I kinda question myself why I didn't take more shots. I was playing on the inside a lot, and they were kinda switching zones, so there weren't as many high-post touches. When I was playing the perimeter, I made some passes. I probably should've scored more."
He stops short of lamenting his nine assists, though.
"I definitely look at that as a good thing," the Sylmar High product said. "If they're assists, someone's scoring off them. I only had one turnover, which is pretty good, after averaging two, three, four over the last couple games. It was good to have that many more assists than turnovers."
If the Bruins were to have any kind of shot today, we will need a big game from Honeycutt. It would also help if Howland made an effort to keep Honeycutt fresh, by using Mike Moser for 4-7 mins a game, using his athleticism and physical frame as an asset in our zone defense. Yet we can't really count on it as Moser will be sitting on the bench and wondering what would have happened if he was playing with Derrick Williams and Momo Jones on the other end of the court.
As far I know, the Bruins never won a game in Tucson (my memory goes back to in 1986) in a year they didn't win the Pac-10 title. It is going to be more of the same tonight. At this point pathetic moral victories are not going to be any kind of silver lining, given how Howland has thoroughly quashed the morale of his program by sticking to his stubborn ways. We are now left with near certain dreadful scenario of walking through the motions in another standard beat down tonight. I hope I am wrong and it's that sliver of hope that will cause many of us to remain awake well past 1 am tonight.