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Ben Ball News & Notes

I don’t know about you but the Wednesday before Sweet-16 is always the toughest hump day of the year. The Pac-10 season with its slate of Thursday/Fri-Sat games gets us in rhythm for the tournament season. However, around this time of the season when Wednesday rolls around, I feel like I have had enough of my share of stories, articles, analysis etc, and just want to get started with the game. And with that note let’s start with today’s roundup. The most important item on our plate is LRMAM’s health. According to Coach Howland an MRI on Luc’s left ankle this week showed ‘no damage’:

>> Howland said that the MRI on Luc Richard Mbah A Moute’s left ankle came back showing no damage. "It’s normal as far as I know," he said. "He has swelling that you can see through the MRI, there’s no fracture of any type. He actually in a final right now; it was put back until today. Alfred [Aboya] won’t be here because Luc forgot to pay for his parking pass for the quarter and he got a ticket for that, so he’s running over to the parking ticket office, wherever that is, and paying for his quarterly parking pass.

"Luc’s [final] was extended, it’s a hard class and the professor was nice because we were playing last week. Everybody else is done with the exception of that final today. I saw Luc yesterday; he was studying all day yesterday. He did go get his MRI, the MRI came back fine or I would have heard of otherwise by now. That was precautionary as we stated, we want to make that there’s nothing going on that potentially could be a problem. He had less swelling yesterday; he had severe swelling on Sunday. I looked at his ankle and said, ‘Wow.’ That thing was elephantitis. It was fat.

"I don’t know how [trainer] Carrie [Rubertino] would characterize it, but he can play. I think it’s important for him to practice these next two days and we do run the risk of him re-injuring it because are going to be full contact, we’re not going to be just an easy practice. We have a lot to prepare for in Western Kentucky, a lot of different presses, a lot of pressure, so we have a lot to do. I still have to finish my practice plan upstairs, because I really want to have a good practice today."
Well that certainly helps calming my nerves heading into tomorrow night. With Coach Howland in charge this program will always remain steady and not to mention prepared as well as any team can be heading into this type of game.

Speaking of preparation Coach Howland spent some time with JS on Monday and JS as usual sounds unflappable. From the Daily News:
So Howland took Shipp back to the gym Monday, this time for 325 shots, of which Howland approximated half to be 3-pointers.

"When he has any time where he's starting to miss more than one in a row - it's usually because it's a little flat," Howland said. "He just needs more arc on his shot. It's juts being on balance, and not fading one way or another, and shooting the ball with confidence, and that's where repetition comes in."

Shipp, to his credit, is neither short nor unpleasant in answering different variations of the same questions - has he lost his confidence? What is wrong mechanically? How maddening is this?

Asked if he is weary of all the questions, Shipp didn't bat an eye.

"I'm know I'm going to hear it, so it really doesn't matter," he said. "It is what it is. There's only one way to stop the talk.

That's all on me. I have to keep shooting the ball and knock some shots down."
JS’s team-mates are not worried either. From the same article:
"Josh knows exactly what he has to do," Collison said. "Most players, when they're in the predicament, they don't know what to do, they don't know how to handle it. They actually lose confidence, and they show signs of losing confidence. Josh hasn't shown signs of losing confidence.

"I think it's only a matter of time, and mark my words, Josh will hit the shots when we really need it the most."
I think tomorrow could be a good night for Josh. Again IIRC last year it was AA’s "slump" that was talk around this part of the world (continually being ginned up by the beat reporters and worrywarts) heading into the big dance. Well AA worked through that time by driving to the hoop and getting himself the FT line (within the flow of the game) to get his points. Hopefully we will get to see some of the same controlled aggression from JS tomorrow. And WKU’s style of play may lead to that scenario. From the OC Register:
"They're not trying to let you play in the half court, they're trying to speed the game up and turn it into a game where they're creating turnovers and causing havoc with their pressure."

And how happy are the Bruins about that?

"It should help us out," Josh Shipp said. "Me and Russell (Westbrook) like to get out and play in a transition game, so that should be fun for us. The half-court game, it's a lot of slow down and we get stagnant at times. It's definitely going to be good for us."
Well again the trick for JS and RW is going to be to not get sucked into a playground basketball mode. Even when they are on transition they will have to make sure they complete the play instead of worrying about putting together spectacular finishes. Over the year we have botched few fast breaks (ASU game in Tempe comes to mind right away) whenever we have tried to get a little to fancy on these offensive transitions. JS, RW and everyone else need to go for the easy points and forego the degree of difficulty when they find themselves in these situations.

We are not going to get away with being sloppy tomorrow given the fact we are going to be taking on a very experienced, senior led team. From’s Jim Alexander:
[W]hen San Diego was making a run Sunday, the three senior starters [Tyrone Brazelton, Ty Rogers, and Courtney Lee, Ed.] settled Western Kentucky down.

"It definitely helped us a lot," Lee said. "In the huddle we had every senior speaking and being vocal out there, leading the team along the way. The younger guys, they listened and just followed."

That helps explain why mid-majors, low seeds and under-the-radar teams have their one shining moment at this time of year, and sometimes more.

"They've got an advantage in that those guys have been through a lot," Howland said. "They're older, more mature, and that definitely helps. Seniors have that light that goes on sometimes in their last year in college.

"That's one of the keys to why you see so many mid-major teams advance. The high majors lose guys to the NBA. That's our situation for the second straight year. Last year we had none. This year we have one whopping senior, Lorenzo (Mata-Real)."
We know the cliché about how talent always trumps experience. But still our guys will have to come out focused and stay patient on offense (in the face of expected pressure from WKU) while exert the same clamp down mentality on D, they showed during the second half against A&M If we come out poised hopefully it will allow us to gain some separation and take control of the game early setting us up well for a good Thursday night. Lastly, a tip on traveling from Coach Howland:
>> Howland also noted how helpful it is to be playing close to home, first in Anaheim and now in Phoenix. "We’re just glad we’re close to home. Is it the same time zone now? . . . because they don’t change the clocks in Arizona; I lived there for five years. The main thing is the same time zone. Our Chancellor Gene Block, he’s a scientist, his whole area of research is on time zones and how it affects you and it really does affect you, going especially west to east. It’s much easier going east to west. I went to lunch with him one day and he was telling me how they were putting mice on planes and doing all these studies and mice would actually die going from west to east on these three to four-hour trips in certain cases and there’s some definite things you should look to do. It’s much easier coming the other way. So for that factor, we’re really happy to be close and then also, family of our players and fans that are able to purchase tickets, are able to drive to Phoenix. It’s going to be nice; I think we’re looking at 84 or 85 degrees each day. I’m laughing, I talked to some friends in Pittsburgh and it’s freezing back there right now and we can walk outside in shorts and a T-shirt, it’s nice.
Mice dying on planes?

Now I know why I feel a little lethargic today.