Let's continue to look into matchup issues against Memphis Tiger. Andy Glockner from the WWL attempted to find "UCLA's hidden truth" and discovered that we have the "worst offense of Final Four teams." How bad is our offense? We are only ranked seventh in the nation measured by kenpom.com. Glockner sounds dismissive of our offense comparing it to other three teams, which finished in the top-4. Well not sure what exactly is Glockner's standard of excellence. But over here no one is going apologize for sending a team that has the combination featuring the second best defensive unit in the country (best among the Final-4 teams) and a top-10 offense, after going through a true round robin schedule of one of the best conferences in the country.
In any event, there are some observations in Glockner's piece that are useful in considering the strategy for Saturday. First, let's look into what he "learned" from our three losses this season:
The Bruins also shot terribly from 3-point range in their losses, going a combined 15-of-63 in the three defeats. UCLA has taken only 15.8 3s a game this season, so the number of 3s taken in two of those games was very high (21 against Texas, 26 against USC). Some of that was dictated by game situation, but since the Bruins shoot only 35.0 percent as a team and, aside from Darren Collison (53.0 percent), no one on the team shoots better than Kevin Love's 36.3 percent, this isn't a recipe for consistent success.
Howland, looking for better interior defense, went with senior Lorenzo Mata-Real down the stretch against the Longhorns - a game UCLA eventually would lose 63-61. Mata-Real is a veteran player who started every game as a junior and was familiar with the team's defensive scheme. Clearly at the time, the UCLA coach did not have the confidence yet in his freshman phenom on the defensive end.
But Love got the message from the game - loud and clear. Even a player, who was averaging a double-double, would ride the pine under Howland if he couldn't defend.
Love has improved his defense tremendously over the course of the season. His rotations are quicker, his hedges on screens are more crisp, to the point he can be a defensive force in the paint. Against Texas A&M, Love recorded seven blocked shots. Moreover, at the end of the conference season, he received honorable mention for the Pac-10 All-Defensive Team.
Now where Glocker is on point is wrt to his observation on our three point shooting. I think he is right that we are not going to win on Saturday based on our three point shooting. Will it help if JS and RW can knock down a few? Absolutely. If they do that and we stay patient on offense, neutralize them on the boards, and stay mistake free, we are going to be unstoppable. However, most of this season we haven't had to depend on three point shooting to compile our 35-3 record. What we must do is to make sure we take good shots. We need to stay patient, run the clock, attack the rim, run our offense through Love, and execute.
Most importantly, if we are going to win on Saturday, it will once again start with and center around our defense. More from Glockner:
And as we have already been discussing ad nausea we will need RW and DC to be on their top game to stop Derrick Rose. Luke Winn of SI.com posted `the book' on Derrick Rose (courtesy of some unnamed assistant coached who took on the Tigers):
"He loves to do a hesitation crossover dribble from left-to-right. When he goes left, he likes to shoot pull-up jumpers, and when he goes right, he likes to shoot floaters with the right hand -- and he's way more likely to get all the way to the rim going right, too. When he's in [the lane] he does not shy away from contact; he can finish over a defense and get to the free-throw line.
"Stopping him in transition is really tough. We told our big guys to get back and try to 'corral' the ball, so there were two guys on him at all times, but that's hard to execute.
"In the halfcourt, we tried to guard him with a man-and-a-half on both sides -- what that means is, if you're guarding the guy on the right wing, you're in the gap, not leaving your guy altogether, but just being in a position to do two things. You have to pick your poison, because CDR [Chris Douglas-Roberts] will be on one wing and [Antonio] Anderson will be on the other, but we decided we had to help off of them because they don't shoot the ball really well from the perimeter. When you're not as athletically gifted as they are, you have to cheat a little bit."
I also think a huge key for this Saturday night is going to be how the refs are going to call the game. Our guys have to adapt fast if the refs are calling it close. Remember we lost AA to foul trouble early against Florida last year. I am not worried about our guys bodying up Rose and co. But we cannot afford to see DC, RW, JS, LRMAM picking up cheap fouls in reaching in with their hands (like we saw last Thursday night against WKY even though some of the calls were atrocious).
At this point the bottom line is we are going to need our best effort of this season to beat a great team on Saturday. We will need to come out and play our brand of lock down defense right from the tip off like we did in our last game and sustain it for the entire 40 mins. We also have to make sure we don't get sucked into an up or down play ground game like we did in the early mins against Southern Cal at Pauley. As I mentioned above controlling tempo and shot selection will be a huge key, along with the requisite crashing/controlling of the boards. We can't afford to let up at any point of the game. Thank fully with Coach Howland in charge we know our coaches will do everything they can to get our warriors in the right frame of mind.