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Ben Ball News & Notes

Let’s get right back to March Madness. KS Wong over at Bruin Basketball Report has a great post up on whether Saturday’s matchup against the Tigers will turn into a 2006 defensive redux. Wong looked back to the 2006 game and noted how in that game Coach Howland switched his pg – JF – over to guarding SG Antonio Anderson and put CB on then Memphis pg Darius Washington. The result was different from the matchup earlier that season when Washington ate up JF. So with that in mind here is a look into the matchups this season:

Move forward to 2008, UCLA has Pac-10 Defensive player of the year 6'3 Russell Westbrook; however, it does not have nearly the defensive personnel of the 2006 club.

Whereas the presence of Westbrook helps to make up for the loss of Afflalo on the defensive perimeter, instead of a 6'6 long and agile Bozeman, the Bruins have Josh Shipp who is perhaps the team's weakest defender on the wing.

And while Darren Collison is an excellent on-ball defender, his 6'1, 165 lb frame puts him at a decided size disadvantage against the Tigers' big backcourt of 6'3 205 lb Derrick Rose and 6'7 Chris Douglas-Roberts.

Howland recognizes the quality of the Memphis backcourt and understands the challenges his team faces in matching up with it.

"Their offense starts with Derrick Rose," Howland said. "Jason Kidd is a very good analogy, but with a better jump shot at the same stage. Chris Douglas-Roberts is very skilled with the ball, at putting the ball on the floor and making plays. He attacks the rim, he can knock down a three. He can do it all.

In 2006 Darius Washington was a solid point-guard for Memphis but NBA-lottery bound Rose is a completely different player who provides the team speed and shot creation at the point. Rose is definitely a difference maker and makes the Tiger offense hum.

The match-ups on the perimeter for Saturday's game between the two clubs will likely be Russell Westbrook on Douglas-Roberts, Josh Shipp on Antonio Anderson, and Darren Collison on Derrick Rose.
I think that sounds about right. However, as I have said today I won’t be surprised if Howland decides to go big a lot on this game by giving extended minutes to JK, LMR and AA2. JK has been playing outstanding defense in his last few games. Having him in there along with KL could give Howland the option to switch DC over to Anderson, RW on Rose and sic LRMAM on CDR. Again I am writing about this a lot because this is really fascinating and interesting to me, and I am anxious to see how this chess match plays out. BTW I am not sure if the suspension of Aundre Allen will have any discernible impact on Saturday's game. It could put some added burden on Rose in terms of mins and being wary of not getting into foul trouble, but I think that concern goes both ways. Both teams will have to immediately gauge how the refs are calling the game and be ready to adjust accordingly.

On to some other news and notes Dohn has a pretty cool profile on our Prince:
Mbah a Moute was hoping his parents would make the trip to San Antonio, where UCLA will meet Memphis in the NCAA Tournament's first national semifinal Saturday, but learned this week they will not attend.

But unlike a year ago, Mbah a Moute has the memories of being home recently to help soften the disappointment.

"To have the chance to go back and see his parents and friends was important in terms of finding your roots and going back home," said Aboya, who is also from Yaounde. "It gave him a new energy."

When Mbah a Moute arrived at UCLA, coach Ben Howland and teammates used to get a kick out of the cultural differences between Southern California and Central Cameroon. Among Mbah a Moute's favorite meats is viper (yes, the snake).

The first thing Mbah a Moute and Aboya did after driving from Doula to the capital city of Yaounde on their trip home last summer was eat. And eat, and eat.

Among the meats and fish at the spread were some traditional Cameroon dishes, including Ndole (a meat or fish dish that includes peanuts and vegetables).

"It took like three or four hours to eat," said Mbah a Moute, who has three sisters and four brothers. "After that, I talked to my little brother and little sister for a while. I never felt so good."
Shoot. I don’t know people. If eating a viper gives our boys – LRMAM & AA2 – a little extra energy, why not include that in their meal plan for Friday? (j/k people … that’s a joke … but if you think about it …).

Elsewhere, Pucin has a piece on how star freshmen like KL and Rose have give up theire egos to fit into the team. In other words it’s a boilerplate human interest story that doesn’t tell us much. But if you want to read up here is the link.

Lastly, Jill Painter has an update on Coach Wooden, who recently received a call from Tom Coughlin. The Super Bowl champion coach was checking in with the Coach. Coach will not make it to San Antonio. He is take it easy, resting up, and thankfully according to Painter’s report he now has someone ‘with him around the clock’ to look after him. And of course he is on everyone’s mind in this Nation. From Painter:
Normally, Wooden would be conducting countless interviews this time of year, but Muehlhausen said she allowed one interview with The Associated Press.

And, of course, the occasional call from a Super Bowl champion coach.

"I remember the first time I called him," Coughlin said. "I was an NFL head coach and I'd been in the AFC Championship game and here I was nervous talking to coach Wooden. But he puts you right at ease."

Love, who's played magnificently in the NCAA Tournament, knows the feeling. Love frequently says he wants to "be at your best when your best is needed," amaxim he plucked from Wooden's vault. Before he stepped on campus, Love formed a relationship with Wooden. He said he hadn't spoken to Wooden in a while, although he was in UCLA's locker room last week reminding teammates that he wanted to help win the school's 12th national championship for Wooden. He didn't want them to forget this was Wooden's program.

And even though Love hasn't talked to Wooden much lately, he's always thinking of him.

"It's like those little bracelets (that read), `What would Jesus do?' What would Wooden do?" Love said. "We want to bring (the championship) home and open up that wide grin of his a little bit. We're going for No. 12, and we'll try to make him proud."
I love that kid. I am going to miss him.

Here is to KL and rest of his team-mates make the Coach proud on Saturday night giving them a chance to go for no. 12 on Monday. Let’s go.