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2008 John Wooden Classic: Game Day Notes

Ben Ball warriors get back in action this afternoon by taking on Blue Demons.  I noted yesterday that DePaul is coming into this game with a record of 4-2 with losses against California and Morgan Center. I double checked DePaul's official site today and it looks like they are coming in with a record of 4-3 which also includes a 27 point loss against Northwestern.

It will be easy for many to overlook this team. Yet Coach Howland as he always does is giving his full respect to the upcoming opponent:

"They've got some good players," he said. "I've watched the film."

Start with forward Dar Tucker, a 6-foot-5 sophomore who is averaging 20.3 points and seven rebounds. Center Mac Koshwal, a native of Sudan, is averaging 12.8 points and 10.8 rebounds but has missed time this season because of a sore foot.

On defense, Howland said, "They play man-to-man and pressure you, get after you. They also play a 2-3 zone."

Another factor that might be an issue will be how the Bruins respond to the fatigue and mental drain from a finals week:

Freshman guard Jrue Holiday, for example, had two 10-page papers due this week and was among several players with exams Friday morning.

"I'm trying to get through this week," he said. "Not all-nighters, but staying up late, probably till 2:30 or 3."

Roll started ratcheting up the schoolwork on the team's recent trip to Texas. He faced an 8 a.m. test the morning after Sunday night's home game against Cal State Northridge.

"I was up all night studying," he said.

That didn't leave much time to focus on basketball. The Bruins have said they need to improve on offense and shore up defensive play that has allowed opponents to shoot almost 44% from the field.

Instead, they got several days off to study over the last week and Monday's practice wasn't much more than a conditioning session. Center Alfred Aboya missed a workout because of his class schedule.

"Obviously we're not going to be in the gym all that much," Roll said. "We're not going to be putting in extra time when we've got a major test the next day."

Yesterday they didn’t get much of a breather at all as they jetted over to the OC to attend a special even with Coach and the Special Olympics team, before holding their team practice for this game. So it will be interesting to see what kind of start they have against the Blue Demons this afternoon and how crisp and sharp their defense is in the early going.

If the Bruins look a little sloppy this afternoon, it will give more fodder to the concern trolls who seem to be gearing up for all out cynical attacks on our young team. Dan Weber from the Press Enterprise (who generally covers the Trojan football beat for that paper) actually was stupid enough to question whether our freshmen class is “over-rated”:

So was this class overrated?

UCLA coach Ben Howland said he didn't know about people's perceptions but he did know last year's Pac-10 class, with Love, USC's O. J. Mayo and Arizona's Jerryd Bayless, was special.

And to expect, as so many Bruins fans and national pundits did, for languid-moving, 6-foot-10 freshman J'mison "BoBo" Morgan, who has a mere eight rebounds in seven games, to step in without a hitch was unrealistic.

"It's all about his competing for minutes," Howland said of Morgan.

"It's all new to him," Howland said of the demands on any freshman, especially from a man-to-man defensive team like UCLA. "If we were a zone team, it would be easier."

Get that? A kid is not having the start as once in a generational phenom like Kevin Love, so he is questioned as whether he is “over-rated.” And what is laughable is for Dan to refer to “so many Bruin fans” without providing any names of actual Bruin fans who were actually delusional and stupid enough in expecting JM to have the same start as UCLA did.

Mark Saxon joined Weber in the same wankery in the OC Register:

Some of the new guys (J'Mison Morgan and Jerime Anderson) have struggled outright. Others (Malcolm Lee, Drew Gordon and Holiday) just haven't quite lived up to astronomical billing.

The signs of progress are there, but the Bruins need to grow up fast or they can forget about their customary top seeding by the time March rolls around.

"You catch a glimpse of it every once in a while. We could be great," junior guard Michael Roll said. "That's why we're practicing so hard every day. Hopefully, we get there by the end of the season and tournament time."

Holiday is the primary reason few experts expected this team to drop off much after Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute went pro.

At times, the 6-foot-3 guard has looked as good as all those recruiting sites said he was. But he also has nearly as many turnovers (13) as assists (16) and, when his concentration lapsed last week at Texas, his man, A.J. Abrams, scored 31 points.

I guess we should have given up on DC when he was getting torched early in his freshman season too. Again, I just can’t imagine how Coach Howland and his staff deal with these kinds of moronic reporting on a regular basis.

As I mentioned above, I think it will be interesting to what kind of energy the Bruins come out with this afternoon. Speaking from experience we all know how tiring a finals week can be at UCLA. As usual Howland and his staff will do their best to make sure the Ben Ball warriors are ready for an opponent no matter how much they are struggling coming into a game. Hopefully the guys can come out and take care of business, setting them up for a nice non conference run heading into the Pac-10 season.