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Ben Ball Roundup

BBR has the preview for tomorrow's game against Southern Cal:

USC has a good blend of underclassmen and experienced players in the starting line-up.  In the past few games they have gone with a four-guard alignment on offense to take advantage of their athleticism on the perimeter and ability to take opponents off the dribble.

The Bruins have had trouble with their perimeter defense and keeping players in front of them. If they allow the Trojans, or any team for that matter, to easily dribble penetrate into the paint the Bruins will have a difficult time winning any game in the Pac-10 this season.

Defensively, the Trojans will alternate between a man-to-man and an aggressive match-up zone.  UCLA has had problems all year executing their offense against the zone, and will need to be much quicker moving the ball on the perimeter and attacking the seams of the zone with quick dribble penetration.

With Josh Shipp injured with a slight hamstring tear, Michael Roll will get the start and his presence on the court may deter the Trojans from using their zone as often, still, expect the Bruins to be tested again if they can beat the zone.

The Trojans started the season with a number of question marks in the backcourt.  With the tragic loss of standout guard Ryan Francis over the summer, they were left without a proven player at the point.  Then Gabe Pruitt, a player they expected to help fill the void at point-guard, was ruled academically ineligible until December.

However, the Trojans have received significant contributions from two freshmen, Taj Gibson and Daniel Hackett, both who only gained eligibility right before the start of the season.
It will be interesting to see how we adjust to Shipp's injury. Some folks are saying Shipp's injury will cause our team to rally and turn up the defensive intensity. However, it will be a challenge for our guys to replace the second leading offensive threat on our roster, specially against a pretty solid defensive team. But then again this is not the first time Coach Howland and his players have faced adversity in Westwood. They battled through the injury bug all last season, before peaking at the right time. Let's hope we are in store for much of the same this season.

Elsewhere, OC Register's Kuwada has an article on development of Mata's game. Kuwada feigns concern whether the proverbial light switch will go on for Mata like it did for Hollins late last season. I don't think there is much to worry about here for a guy (who Howland clearly recruited as a project and a role player) averaging 6.7 games. Mata's roll is to get boards, D up, and provide that hustling intensity on defense. He had an off night in Oregon. But as the superlative stats compiled by BBR points out, the guy still leads the team in categories like charges taken and dive for loose balls. That's what really matters. And he has already improved so much offensively in his three years under Howland. We have no worries he is going to turn out all right (he already has). We think he will come out with that Mata like intensity that has already turned him into a legend in Westwood.