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Ben Ball News & Notes: All About Mississippi Valley State

It’s tournament week. Time to think about our first game in the Big Dance. The most pressing concern for our team this week is going to be the health of LRMAM and KL. From Dohn:

Junior starting power forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is no longer using crutches, but his sprained left ankle remains in a walking boot. He is optimistic he will no later than the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Meanwhile, Love said his ailing lower back, which he categorized as a strained muscle, was sore. He received treatment throughout the day.

"It's fine sitting down, but if I stand up on it for 35, 40 minutes, it starts to pull and is a little tough walking on it," Love said.

"It's not really a concern with me. I can play through it, and plus, if I get the right treatment on it and take care of it, I'll be fine."

The health of Mbah a Moute and Love is key to a long UCLA run, particularly since the Bruins appear to have a favorable bracket compared to the other No. 1 seeds - North Carolina, Memphis and Kansas.
Whether or not our guys have a favorable bracket compared to other no. 1 seeds is kind of silly issue to discuss given the recent history of our basketball program which involves nightmares courtesy of Detroit-Mercy, Princeton, Tulsa, Penn State, you get the picture?

So I wouldn’t get too caught up the in the picture of the potential matchups down the line given every game from here on out could be our potential last game of the season, if we don’t "bring it."

Luckily for us we do have some Madness veterans on our team, who know full well how dangerous it could be look too far head. Thanks to DC who is on point (emphasis added throughout):
"They were saying (on television) that we have the easiest bracket out of all the regions, but I disagree," UCLA point guard Darren Collison said. "I'm not sure of our first round matchup because I don't know anything about Mississippi Valley State, but anybody can beat anybody. Sometimes (the media) tries to set it up otherwise."
And his backcourt mate RW is in the same frequency:
"It changes a lot because everybody knows we've been to two Final Fours in a row and they're expecting us to win it all," Westbrook said. "If we don't come out and play (hard) we might lose, so we have to come out and play every game like it's our last. When we're playing at our best, there's a lot of teams that can't do what we do."
We can assume our guards were taking their cue from our head coach:
"We just don't want to be the first team in the history of the tournament where the 16 seed beats the 1 seed," Howland said. "That is going to happen. We just hope it doesn't happen on Thursday in Anaheim."
The only kid who got sucked into talking about potential matchups down the line was none other than KL, who was thinking about his old buddy Kyle Singler’s Duke team lurking around the West bracket as number 2 seed in the region. KL needs to adopt the singularly focused attitude of rest of his team-mates who have gone through this drill:
It was left to freshman center Kevin Love to scan the rest of the tournament bracket and lock onto the potential glamour game of the West Regional -- the matchup with Duke and its star freshman Kyle Singler. […]

"I swear the NCAA committee, they do that on purpose," Love said. "I was calling it for two weeks. We were going to be the No. 1 seed and Duke the No. 2 in the West. I'm not supposed to be looking that far ahead, but I do see it down the road. That would be a fun game to play in. I've always dreamed of playing Duke."

The rest of the Bruins, the veterans such as senior Lorenzo Mata-Real and juniors Josh Shipp and Darren Collison who have been part of UCLA's last two Final Four teams, adopted Howland's more singularly focused attitude.

"It's the playoffs now," Shipp said. "Nothing is easy in the playoffs, upsets happen all the time. Sure, we have the No. 1 seed, but that doesn't prove anything. We have to prove we deserve it."
JS, DC and rest of their team-mates need to be focused because it appears there are some haters out there who are already mouthing off about how to take down our Bruins. Case in point Justin Dentmon, the poser from Washington, who is going to sitting on his couch eating nachos during the Big Dance, talked to OC Register’s Kuwada on how to take down UCLA:
"It goes right back to the guards," said Washington point guard Justin Dentmon, who led the Huskies to a victory over UCLA on Feb. 10, the Bruins' most recent loss.

"I mean, Love is going to get his, because he's so strong and athletic. To beat them you have to cut the head off the body – you take the guards away from them and you can get them." […]

"I just know that most people don't pressure him up, so I just felt like I needed to get the referees involved and get the count going," he said. "If you get close to five seconds, he'll forget about running the offense and just try to go one on one."

The perimeter shooting also is problematic. Collison has hit 50.6 percent (43 of 85) of his attempts at the 3-point line, but the Bruins are lacking a second threat.
It’s a shame that clown had to lose against Cal. That’s one matchup I would have really loved to see last Thursday. Oh well. I sure hope that clip finds it’s way to DC’s locker room this week.

Anyway, going back to the Delta Devils, Pucin has a first look on our matchup against the champions from the Southwestern Athletic Conference:
* When Mississippi Valley State has the ball: Forward Carl Lucas, a 6-5 senior, is the leading scorer for the Delta Devils (12.7 ppg) and was named most valuable player in the SWAC tournament. The strength of the team is its interior game.

* What to expect: UCLA will make it tough for the Delta Devils to score against its switching man-to-man defense. Point guard Darren Collison will apply ferocious ball pressure from the start and the Bruins won't worry about what Mississippi Valley State might do. The Delta Devils have a Los Angeles connection -- 5-8 senior guard Mike Davis lettered two years at Verbum Dei before playing at Panola (Texas) Junior College and then transferring to Mississippi Valley State. Davis has played in all 32 games this year and averages 2.4 points.
Also it turns out that the head coach of MVS – James Green – is a former assistant of Timmeh, going back to their days at Iowa State. Timmeh wasted no time in calling Green to "congratulate" him. We all know Timmeh is so sly with his phone.

Lastly, we will probably put together a BN bracket sometime today or tomorrow. So that will be some place where all of you can show off your knowledge/picks on rest of the field. But for here on the home page, it is going to be all about Mississippi Valley State from now on till Thursday night.