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Ben Ball News & Notes

Before getting to the news and notes on the football front, let’s shift our attention to Ben Ball back on the home page. The Bruins have a monster game tomorrow night at Maples. And right now there are some concerns about how Coach Howland is going to deal with the latest injury to Michael Roll. From the LA Times:

With Roll, a swingman who was expected to play 20 minutes per game at shooting guard and small forward, scheduled for an MRI exam today, Howland was unwilling to speculate on how long Roll would be out or whether the junior might need a medical redshirt season.

As well, Howland wouldn't say whether he would reconsider the status of power forward James Keefe, who has yet to play this season while recovering from shoulder surgery and is expected to be a redshirt.

Last month, Howland and Keefe agreed the sophomore would sit out this season unless there was a season-ending injury to an inside player. Keefe would be competing for minutes with Lorenzo Mata-Real, Alfred Aboya, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Kevin Love. Roll backed up Josh Shipp and Russell Westbrook.

Howland said Tuesday that he was uncomfortable playing a seven-man rotation during the next 18 conference games.

"As hard as we play defensively and how we emphasize pressuring the ball and how physical and strong our league is, I don't think you can have success playing just seven guys that many minutes," Howland said. "I think we need an eighth and a ninth man available to us."
I know Roll has not been shooting well this season. He has been dealing with his injured left foot the whole time. However, Roll’s presence meant a lot of little things which had positive effects on the line up. Some of you pointed to Roll’s passing ability. Another aspect of Roll’s presence was the production of LRMAM. From the same article:
During Roll's initial absence from the lineup, Mbah a Moute moved from power forward to small forward, but the junior's production in rebounding and scoring has risen constantly since Roll was back in the rotation and Mbah a Moute could concentrate on playing power forward. He's averaging 10.1 points and 5.4 rebounds, up from 7.2 points and 3.0 rebounds before Roll came back.

"It's fine with me," Mbah a Moute said of switching positions. "It's a different mind-set. You're guarding different people. At [small forward] you're chasing people around and getting around screens and stuff. At [power forward] you body up."
Well, who is going to step up for MR at the 3? Coach Howland mentioned two names. From the Daily News:
Chase Stanback, a true freshman, has averaged just 8.5 minutes a game and has played in 10 games. Nikola Dragovic has shot 35 percent from the field and just 20 percent from 3-point range.

"I think (Stanback) improved, and I thought he played well in the game the other night (against UC Davis) and he's had good practices since the Christmas break," Howland said. "I've been pleased with his improvement recently. It is good because we are going to need him.

"Nikola Dragovic is practicing hard, but I told him that the one thing we expect him to do well is shoot the ball well, and he's not done that."
Again, you've got to love Coach Howland’s candor and frank assessment of his players. It will be interesting to see how those two step up against the Cardinal tomorrow night. Meanwhile, from the same article, some good news:
Collison free

Darren Collison shed his left knee brace for the first time this season Monday and will play without it in Thursday's Pacific-10 Conference opener at No. 24 Stanford.

"He looked good moving around. He's been wanting to take that brace off," Luc Richard Mbah a Moute said. "He won't have to worry about his knee. That guy is so quick, even when he's injured, he's still quick."

Injury update

Lorenzo Mata-Real (groin) returned to practice and is expected to play Thursday against the Cardinal after missing the UC Davis game. Mustafa Abdul-Hamid (stress reaction right foot) also returned to partial practice.
More on those two at Bruin Basketball Report.

Needless to say, we are going to need everyone tomorrow night against the Cardinal. I will try to compile some notes on the Cardinal later on tonight or tomorrow. Those guys are off to a great start (11-1). Although, if I have my notes correct, they haven’t really been playing a challenging schedule this early in the season. Their biggest win came against Texas Tech in Dallas (a TT team who had lost to Sam Houston State and Centenary). However, before any of you get a little too comfortable, just keep in mind that we have lost 4 out of our last 5 up at Maples. So it is going to be an all out battle. More on the game later.

Needless to say, our Warriors will have to give everything they have tomorrow night to get off to a good start in what we expect to be a tough and brutal conference season. Let’s get it on.