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Getting "Serious": Ben Ball Roundup

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Here at BN all of us are pretty hyped up about Bruins' number 1 ranking. Our players (thankfully) though are not getting too caught up in the hype, understanding full well that they are not an invincible team. They know they have to work on lingering issues such as atrocious FT shooting. Here is AA on the need for Bruins to improve before they head into the conference season:

"We have a lot of promise," guard Arron Afflalo said. "We still have a few things we need to improve on before Pac-10 play. That's going to be the most strenuous and important part of our season.

"The obvious things are going to be our rebounding margin and free throws. Those are two aspects of the game that can hurt you down the stretch if you're not improving on that part of the game."

Chances are Sam Houston State isn't the team that will send the Bruins tumbling from atop the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls. The Bearkats (6-4) have lost to UC Irvine by eight in overtime, Oklahoma State by 19 and Texas Tech by 15.

But just ahead for the Bruins lies 11-1 Michigan on Saturday, and the beginning of Pacific 10 Conference play.
That was Robyn Norwood covering the UCLA beat for the LA Times (for some reason Diane is missing in action ... hmm). Anyways the theme of improvement is also evident on Dohn's report in the Daily News, which also mentions how staff has been hard on Shipp to improve his FT shooting (which is now less than 70 percent):
Pay attention: Bruins sophomore Josh Shipp caught the wrath of the coaching staff after going 3 for 7 from the free-throw line against Oakland. With the Bruins shooting 59.8 percent as a team from the line, focus is the theme, and Shipp said Howland reminded him of that.

"Sometimes I play around in practice," Shipp said. "I need to get more serious."
No kidding Josh. I get how he is always calm (almost too relaxed) during the games, but I sure hope by now he is totally focused and is zeroed in like Arron Afflalo, who gives everything he has in every practice (and then some), not to mention every game. We have a lot of high expectations for Shipp. He is one of the most talented athletes in the Pac-10 conference, if not the country. If he takes advantage of his athleticism using AA's intensity, he will turn out to be one of the better players in this game.

So let's hope Josh gets "serious" right from the tip off tonight, because Bruins are going to play a pretty well coached opponent. More from Dohn:
Sam Houston State (6-4) plays in the Southland Conference, and uses a deliberate style of play that is sure to keep the Pauley crowd quiet again.

But Howland said there is a benefit to playing a Bearkats squad that has wins over Texas A&M-International, Louisiana College, East Tennessee State, Delaware State, Alcorn State and Loyola Marymount.

"It's a good team for us because we're going to see the same style when we play Arizona State and West Virginia," Howland said.
And BBR in it's (usual must read) game preview has more Bearkat's "Princeton" style offense:
Sam Houston St. was selected as the preseason favorite to win the Southland Conference.  Last season they finished 22-9 overall and had the dishonor of being the only Division I team to win at least 22 games but not make either NCAA or NIT tournaments.

Bearkat Coach Bob Marlin runs the Princeton Offense made famous by former Princeton Coach Pete Carril.  The Princeton Offense is a disciplined offense which emphasizes constant motion, passing, and teamwork.  The players are constantly cutting and moving the ball until a player mismatch or uncontested lay-up, usually back-door, develops.

The style of offense helps to negate an opponent's advantage in athleticism and forces defenses to be disciplined and on constant guard.  Of course, Bruin fans remember when Pete Carril used the offense to upset defending national champion UCLA in 1996.

Not surprisingly, the Bearkats are ranked third in the nation in assists with 20.2 a game .
I am pretty excited about this game. It will be interesting to see if Coach Howland does anything to counter the deliberate style of Bearkats offense to speed up the game (I suspect he won't). Of course I expect us to win this game. However, I don't expect this to be a blowout given the facts that these guys are lead by a core group of veterans, who do not make a lot of mistakes. Let's hope our guys come out focused, fired up, and wear these guys town. Time to get serious for Ben Ball warriors before they a key stretch of this young 2007 season on Saturday.