Rafael Suanes-US PRESSWIRE
Ben Howland's No Excuses Tour rolls on tonight in Brooklyn against the Georgetown Hoyas.
Two undefeated teams enter, only one will emerge...still undefeated. Okay this matchup honestly doesn't need any fake drama, especially since this marks the much anticipated debut of freshman swingman Shabazz Muhammad. In addition, the winner of this game will likely have the opportunity to take on #1 Indiana if they're able to beat the Georgia Bulldogs in their game.
As we've mentioned repeatedly in the offseason, the non-conference season will be of utmost importance for UCLA. It doesn't look like there will be many potential resume building good wins in the Pac-12, so quality teams like Georgetown and potentially Indiana represent opportunities to impress the selection committee even at this early date.
Defensively, DCBruins touched on our suspect interior defense over our first three games. We've given up far too much to opposing frontcourts, and so the availability of Georgetown forward Otto Porter will be of great interest:
It's unclear whether sophomore forward Otto Porter, Georgetown's leading scorer last season, will play. Porter sat out the Hoyas' last game because of mild concussion symptoms and Thompson said he's hopeful that Porter can play.
UCLA Coach Ben Howland called Porter "one of the best players in the country," but even without him, Howland said facing Georgetown's offense will be difficult.
After all these years, we've heard enough of Ben Howland to know that there are many "best players in the country" every year, but Porter would represent a significant threat to our defense as will the Princeton offense employed by the Hoyas. We should be especially wary of how the Wears handle the Princeton's traditional backdoor cuts since no one would really describe them as defensively aware. Whether Porter is able to play or not, the Hoyas will still be able to go after our frontcourt with forwards Nate Lubick and Greg Whittington, who had a career high 18 points in their last game.
This game will also mark a return home for Kyle Anderson, who figures to draw quite a crowd:
The Barclays Center's capacity is 18,000, and more than 50 of those seats will be occupied Monday by friends and family of UCLA guard Kyle Anderson, a New Jersey native.
DCBruins mentioned the injury to Larry Drew II, which presents a problem not only in terms of depth, but may take away a viable defensive strategy in trying to pressure the ball at the top and make passing difficult for the Hoyas.
The other key cog in such a strategy would be the defensive prowess of Shabazz Muhammad who is a question mark for obvious reasons. What UCLA will have to do though is make the most of our advantage in the backcourt. Georgetown's guards have not been particularly impressive to date with the exception of D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, who we will have to stay at home on on the perimeter since he has shown the ability to get hot from behind the arc.
With Muhammad back in the fold, the Hoyas will have even more incentive to lower the number of possessions in the game via the Princeton offense. Control of the pace will be made more difficult if LDII is unable to play, and so we'll have to rely on a combination of Anderson, and perhaps Norman Powell to keep the offense flowing and ensure that Shabazz can have the impact on the game we're all hoping he'll have for the rest of the season. We know Shabazz will be ready:
During UCLA's practices last week, Shabazz Muhammad pushed himself more than usual — and his "usual" effort is said to be more full-bore than most. And after those basketball practices, the freshman stayed late to run, to lift weights.
When Muhammad received the news he'd been long waiting for, he burst into the UCLA men's basketball coaches' offices with an enormous smile. Whoops and yells were exchanged.
The bottom line is that our top line talent, especially with the addition of Shabazz, should be enough to get us a matchup with Indiana tomorrow, but as always, it's going to be on Ben Howland to make it work. Like we saw with Coach Mora against the Trogans, the players as well as the fans just want to see fairness in playing time distribution. Can Howland adjust on the fly and substitute players that aren't performing or not fulfilling the roles we need them to fill? We'll all find out at 5 PM PST on ESPN2.
To close this out, a little bulletin board material:
"We kind of shaped our team a little bit after that Kansas game," junior Nate Lubick recalls. "We’re going to win the [UCLA] game. We didn’t win that Kansas game, which would have been a huge step for our season. But it ended up being okay."