Let’s get started with game week. If you don’t know yet, the tip off for Saturday is scheduled for 3:07 pm PST. The countdown clock is up. The bad news for all of us is that is going to be very painful to see that clock ticking down slowly making this a veeeeeeery long week. But no worries. The good news: Coach Howland gets all the time to get ready for his toughest challenge to date.
Coach Howland has the Tigers on his mind:
"They’ve got a lot of guys that can really play, they’ve got a lot of depth. Andre Allen is playing 14 minutes a game; he’s a senior. They have a lot of guys. They play nine guys at least 14 minutes a game and no one is averaging more than 28. I guess against Texas today, some guys played more minutes: Dorsey played 36, Antonio Anderson played 38, Roberts and Rose played 34, so those four guys played super minutes. It looks like [Robert] Dozier was in foul trouble because he fouled out. Chris Douglas-Roberts got to the line today 17 times, that’s a lot of free throws.
"I mean, think about it, Michigan State, they had down, 50-20, at the half. I’d say that’s an impressive score. Because Michigan State was really, really hard for us, we crushed them by one. They had them down 30 in a half. That’s saying something. I haven’t seen that game; I can’t wait to watch it because I can’t believe it." For the record, the Bruins actually beat Michigan State 68-63 back on November 20 and without Darren Collison, but who’s counting?
Howland gave the players Sunday off, and today is reserved for weight lifting and cardio work.
The Bruins will return to practice Tuesday, and fly to San Antonio after Wednesday's practice. There is a dinner for the participants on Thursday, and then media interviews and a public shoot-around Friday.
"Friday, we have the unbelievable requirement to be there from 10:45 in the morning until 1:30 (p.m.)," Howland said, "between the required practice and all the media events."
Going back to the matchup against Memphis Dohn points out the key difference makers in this game who weren’t around in 2006:
UCLA is led by 6-foot-10, 262-pound center Kevin Love, who is averaging 17.9 points and 10.7rebounds per game. Memphis has Rose, a 6-3 freshman, who is averaging 14.6 points and 4.5 assists per game for a Tigers squad that entered the weekend in the top 25 in scoring (79.8 ppg) and points allowed (61.1 ppg).
"Bottom line is Derrick Rose is great," Howland said. "Man, is he a good player. He's really improved as the season progressed. He's a great point guard. He's arguably the best point guard in the country. It's a great challenge because he's so good."
While the newcomers figure to get loads of attention leading up to tip-off, there is plenty of familiarity on both sides.
Bruins power forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, point guard Darren Collison, center Lorenzo Mata-Real and power forward Alfred Aboya each played in the Oakland regional final.
Rose is the only one of Memphis' current starters that did not play in Oakland. Douglas-Roberts, Robert Dozier, Antonio Anderson and Joey Dorsey each saw action.
The ballhandlers are Anderson, Douglas-Roberts and Rose.
"Rose is so dynamic and strong," Keating said. "The other guys have two years under their belts."
In the 50-45 loss the Tigers had only five assists on their 17 baskets. This year Memphis has five players with more than 60 assists.
And Keating noted that two years ago UCLA had two fierce perimeter defenders -- 6-5 Arron Afflalo and 6-6 Cedric Bozeman -- plus an active, athletic 7-foot center in Ryan Hollins. That combination quickly frustrated the young Tigers, who seemed to have no backup plan when their guards couldn't score or create off the dribble.
But the Bruins have added their own new dimension in Love, who leads the team in scoring and rebounding.
"Kevin gives UCLA that guy to give the ball to make sure you get a point," Keating said.
One thing we know from DC is that the kid has responded every time he has been called out. Same goes for all of his team-mates. I am relishing the fact that they are going to be looked as underdogs heading into Saturday. We have seen how these kids have responded every time they have faced adversity and doubting from the media. If they come out with the same fire and passion they exhibited in our last game and can sustain it for 40 mins, I like our chances.