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More Notes re. Strategery v. Memphis

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 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:

Opposing forwards seem to be the prime problem in the Bruins' three losses. UCLA was shorthanded in the frontcourt when USC's Davon Jefferson hit the Bruins for 25 points and nine rebounds in the upset at Pauley, but Jon Brockman hurt them with 12 points and 17 boards (nine offensive) in the loss at Washington and Damion James went for 19 points and 10 rebounds in Texas' two-point road win.

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.
I think he is right in the sense that in our three losses we did have a problem with handling athletic opposing forwards. However, his observations do not include a number of factors. First, LRMAM missed the second half of the Southern Cal game and the entire Washington game due to injuries. He also missed most of the Southern Cal game during the Pac-10 tourney, however, that loss fortunately was compensated by the late season emergence of James Keefe. Second, the game against Texas took place in early part of the season, which happened to be only DC's second game of the season after returning from a ligament tear in the first exhibition game of the season. DC was not exactly in his usual game speed going up against the All America Augustin. Moreover, in that game we had a different KL who wasn't as developed defensively as the one we have seen in recent weeks. From Bruin Basketball Report on KL's defensive development this season:
After breezing through the early portion of the non-conference schedule and racking up double-doubles, Love found himself in a unfamiliar spot on the bench at the end of a close contest against Texas.

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.
In other words things have changed a little.

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:
As powerful as this Memphis team is, it has been limited at times this season by strong defensive efforts. UCLA is going to need one because it's unlikely that Love, Collison and Russell Westbrook will go off the way they did against Xavier and there's no other consistent source of scoring on the roster right now, especially against a team as long and athletic as Memphis. Texas' D.J. Augustin wasn't able to win his battle with Rose, but UCLA's guards are going to have to do so Saturday. Given the occasional explosion by opposing forwards, you wonder whether Robert Dozier or (especially) Shawn Taggart could be an X factor for the Tigers. UCLA would be wise to establish Love inside early and try to get Joey Dorsey in foul trouble. He can be the emotional fulcrum for Memphis, and he's playing awfully well right now.
We are going to need the best effort of this season from KL, LRMAM, LMR, JK, and AA2 on Saturday to neutralize Dorsey, Dozier et al.

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 posted `the book' on Derrick Rose (courtesy of some unnamed assistant coached who took on the Tigers):
"[Rose] is jet-quick, an explosive combo guard with size who pushes the ball in transition and is excellent in the open court. He's always looking to get to the rim. Only 25 percent of Rose's shots are threes; he's not bad at shooting them, but like we told our guys, he's not going to settle for them. And he's also a real threat on the offensive glass, so he needs to be checked.

"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."
Hmm, note the last sentence. I believe Rose is an incredibly talented and athletically gifted guard. But on the other hand I also believe in the abilities of RW and of DC, if they are locked in and focused on defense.

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.