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Arizona Thoughts

We don't have to write much to get hyped up about tomorrow afternoon's game at Pauley. All jokes aside Lutes Wildcats is an extremely talented squad full of NBA caliber talents. By now everyone knows these guys have an explosive offense but a very mediocre to below average defense. These guys are leading the conference scoring 84.9 points a game while they are second to last in scoring defense giving up 74.4 points a game. [Pac-10 Stats] They like their NBA one-on-one playground track-meets. So this matchup will present an obvious contrast in style. FWIW as the Bruins showed against Michigan and Washington they can play at any pace. Yet I think to pull out a win against a desperate team tomorrow night our effort must be keyed upon an intense, focused defensive attack.  Here is a pretty good write up on the game that makes the same points:

This game will be an interesting contrast. UCLA is a defensive-minded team that wouldn't mind grinding it out in a half-court game and using their depth to wear down opponents. Arizona, on the other hand, is a run-and-gun team that loves to get out and score points in transition. However, they are not playing well at all on the defensive end, meaning they have to outscore most of the opponents they face. The individual match-ups in this game are going to be unbelievable. Mustafa Shakur against Darren Collison at the point. Marcus Williams vs. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute up front. Chase Budinger against Josh Shipp on the wing. Jawann McClellan against Arron Afflalo in the backcourt. I mean, you can make All-American teams with just players from these two teams.

If Arizona is going to pull this game out on the road, they will need to do several things. First of all, they need to get the game at their pace. If UCLA gets them into a half-court game and makes them play defense, this could be a long night for Arizona. The Wildcats simply aren't good enough at that end of the floor to compete with the Bruins. However, if Arizona can turn this into a running game and put up 80-plus points, UCLA could have trouble. Oregon beat UCLA and USC nearly beat the Bruins using a perimeter-oriented attack with four perimeter players and one post player. Luckily for Arizona, they have that same sort of personnel that could give UCLA trouble. Another key for Arizona is to get Ivan Radenovic the ball early and often. He has a mismatch with Lorenzo Mata down low, as he can take Mata outside and shoot the jumper, as well as drive past Mata for lay-ups. Also on offense, Mustafa Shakur will need to get the Arizona offense running smoothly. Darren Collison is a pest on defense, and could disrupt the Wildcats offense. Lastly, and most importantly, Arizona needs to play defense. They have struggled immensely lately on that side of the ball, and need to step it up against the Bruins. UCLA has a lot of weapons, and Arizona can't allow them to get hot early.

Likewise, UCLA has to do a few things in order to beat the high-octane offense of Arizona. Obviously, they need to get the game at their pace, and they need to make it a half-court contest. If they make Arizona play defense on every possession, they could have a field day offensively. As I've stated before, the Wildcats are not good in a man-to-man defensive setting, and they are extremely vulnerable. Moreover, UCLA is too good of a shooting team to zone. Additionally, they have to take advantage of their individual advantages. Arron Afflalo has a big edge on Jawann McClellan. He should be able to get his shot off against McClellan, and will also create havoc on the defensive end. Also, Chase Budinger may be extremely athletic, but he is not an overwhelming defender, and if Josh Shipp is fully healthy, he could have a big day offensively from the wing. Also, UCLA needs to use their depth to their advantage. They have a lot of bodies, both inside and outside, and need to rotate fresh players in to potentially wear down Arizona. In the end, UCLA's defense and Arizona's lack thereof will be too much for Arizona's offense to overcome. Throw in UCLA's homecourt advantage, and the Bruins will come away with the win.
It's a good write up but I have to say after last night's game I am a little worried about our ability to take on the zone defense. Prior to last night's game I thought we were actually handling zone defenses pretty well. However, last night I saw some disturbing trends on offense. Our passing was slow around the parameter and we were very passive in attacking the zone right in the middle. I think our team needs to do a better job in feeding the post than we are doing right now. It doesn't help the fact our big guys are still work in progress. I am little surprised to see Howland hasn't asked Luc to be more aggressive around the paint calling for the ball, using his incredible athletic ability and reach to get the ball, and make his move. We have seen Luc's passing ability. He can pass. Wouldn't it make sense for him to cut inside, square to the hoop, get the ball, and then exercise the option to make his move, or pass it out to open guy (as he would draw the defenders). Like to hear your take on this.

Also another key for tomorrow is going to be the bench play. Arizona doesn't have a deep bench. It has been an issue for them the whole season, and it was an issue in their loss last night, when their bench scored a grand total of 2 points without logging any serious minutes. Most of their starters have been logging heavy minutes. And hopefully Bruins can take advantage of their lack of depth.

I would really like to see lot more of Westbrook and Keefe in the game tomorrow. I think Westbrook does a much better job of attacking the zone than Josh Shipp. Sure he will make mistakes, but I think despite his mistakes, at this point of time his defensive performance has been better than Josh, and his shot selection has been a little more judicious than Shipp's. And Keefe needs to get more time. Sure he has been missing some shots. But when he is in there he is making contributions. Last night he had a good play when he hauled in an offensive board. I think he just needs more game time so that he doesn't appear tentative as he does sometimes when he comes to times.

I think lot of folks think Zona is a good matchup for our Bruins. They don't play good defense and as mentioned above they don't have a deep bench. Don MacLean was talking about a comfortable win during the post-game show last night. I am not so sure if we have the luxury to feel comfortable going into tomorrow's game.

Arizona still has an explosive offense. So if they come out on fire tomorrow, and we play in the same passive manner like we have been during first halves of last three games, then we are going to be in severe trouble, and may have a difficult time catching up in the second half.

I really hope the guys are focused and fired up. They need to come out all jacked up on defense and sustain that intensity all through the game like they did against Washington and against Michigan. Otherwise, they are going to be in trouble against an extremely talented team, which is going to be in a desperation mode to keep their conference championship hopes alive.