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Final-4 Ben Ball Game Day Roundup & Notes: LET'S GO

Finally. Final-4 game day round up time. After this roundup we will put up a pre game open thread which will carry us to Ajax's MOJO filled game thread.

So last night we talked about draped clocks and double socks. Building on that here is Fran Burlison from report on UCLA coaching staff's preparation for tonight's game:

As Rick Barnes' Texas basketball team continued to foul the Memphis Tigers on Sunday in Houston in an attempt to extend the game and/or test that "they can't knock in free throws when it counts" theory, a coaching staff in Los Angeles was looking at footage of that same Memphis team in action. [...]

In fact, for Coach Ben Howland and his staff, there wasn't going to be much time in the next week for anything but preparing for an opponent that polished off the Longhorns, 85-67, and took a 37-1 record with it back to Memphis. [...]

"We had already pulled a lot of video from both Memphis and Texas games (before the teams tipped off in the South Regional final Sunday) and were in the office before the game began, waiting to get ready,'' said UCLA's Scott Duncan, who drew the Tigers as his "scout," meaning he was the Howland assistant most responsible for the overall video study and analysis of Memphis.

By late Sunday night, Duncan and fellow assistants Donny Daniels and Scott Garson had already watched complete videos of the Bruins' 50-45 victory over the Tigers in the West Regional final two years before in Oakland, as well as Memphis' most recent seven games, from start to finish.

By early Monday morning, Howland and his assistants had polished off at least 10 of the Tigers' most recent games, and video coordinator Clay McKnight was assembling "edits" (breakdowns of various aspects of the Tigers' offensive and defensive concepts, along with individual breakdowns of Memphis players) from all the footage they'd looked at in game-form. [...]

The goal was to get by the obvious as quickly as possible -- yeah, Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts are two of the 10 or 12 best players in college basketball -- and then delve into the subtleties of why the Tigers are so overpowering that they have outscored opponents by 20 points a game.

"We are looking as closely as possible at their (individual) personnel, and we want to get to know the concepts of what they're doing, offensively and defensively, and all of their tendencies," Garson said.
Again you have to read the entire article to appreciate it. Wish we could see more of that type of reporting from our beat reporters.

Coach Howland and his warriors are going to need all preparation necessary to get ready for the one of the most star studded titanic Final-4s in history. They are going to have their hands full. But at least there is one thing going from them. Jeff Eiesenberg from the Press Enterprise has this on the experience of our Ben Ball warriors:
Neither Memphis nor Kansas has anyone who has played in a Final Four, while the core of North Carolina's team was still in high school when the Tar Heels won their most recent national title, in 2005.

UCLA's top eight players, by contrast, have made a total of 15 Final Four appearances the past two seasons, logging a combined 315 minutes. The Bruins know what's coming, whether it's lengthy media obligations, a cavernous sold-out arena or inevitable pregame jitters.

"Experience-wise, we're going to have a good advantage," sophomore James Keefe said. "Last year, it was all new to me -- the banquet, the craziness of the Final Four. This year, I know what to expect. It's strictly business there, and that's going to help us."

Although the Bruins can take solace in the absence of the powerful Florida team that convincingly ousted them the past two years, Memphis boasts athleticism reminiscent of the Gators. Point guard Derrick Rose and wings Antonio Anderson and Chris Douglas-Roberts are the centerpieces of the Tigers' motion offense predicated on getting out in transition and breaking opponents down off the dribble.
Well we have analyzed to death all week how we are going to match up against Rose, Anderson, and CDR. LRMAM confirmed a number of our guesses to Pucin in the LA Times that he might also match up against CDR:
We'll all be switching up," Mbah a Moute said. "For strength I'll go against Dozier and sometimes with my foot speed and my arms I'll try Douglas-Roberts."

Howland said his team's defense against Tigers' freshman point guard Derrick Rose, Douglas-Roberts and forward Joey Dorsey would be key.
And LRMAM will have a little extra something going for him tonight. More from Pucin:
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute's parents have never seen him play basketball for UCLA in person, but that's about to change.

His mother, Agnes Goufane Ziem, arrived at UCLA's team hotel Friday, and his father, Camille Moute a Bidias, was expected to attend today's game.

Mbah a Moute left home before his junior year in high school to play basketball at Montverde (Fla.) Academy, and until last summer he didn't go home to Yaounde, Cameroon in West Africa.

During last year's Final Four run, Mbah a Moute had expected his parents, but a combination of visa problems and an eye infection kept either parent from traveling to Atlanta.
Again that is one of the coolest news associated with our team from last five years. Again this just all kind of awesome. I just hope and pray that LRMAM will not get too carried away and just be himself like he was against Xavier.

As for coverage in the local media, Brian Dohn from the Daily News tries to sneak in the Buffalo Bill's narrative one last time re. expectations in this Final-4. Obviously no one is going to buy that sentiment no matter how many times our players give the boilerplate line of UCLA doesn't have Final-4 banners.

Meanwhile, Robert Kuwada from the OC Register who has done such a brilliant job analyzing UCLA match ups to date (calling Coach Howland an "even" match up against both Miller (Xavier) and Horn (Western Kentucky)) is picking Memphis over UCLA by  a score of 78-74. But hey get this ... this time he throws us a bone by giving Howland an edge over Calipari. Thanks Robert for being so generous and observant in your hoops analysis.

Bill Plaschke also tried to jump on the Howland bandwagon. I just read the title of this article from the UCLA section in the LA Times. I didn't bother clicking on it. You can if you want.

And speaking of Coach Howland,'s Phill Taylor has this on how Coach Howland and UCLA are MFEA:
If ever a school and a team were meant for each other, it was UCLA and Ben Howland. The opportunity for them to join forces came when Steve Lavin was fired after a 10-win season in 2003, and athletic director Dan Guerrero quickly hired Howland away from Pittsburgh as the replacement. Having rebuilt Pitt's downtrodden program and gone 57-11 in his final two seasons, Howland could have commanded attention from any number of schools, but he didn't exactly play hard to get. "I told Dan I knew how to be a good employee," he says. "I didn't care if they paid me a dime. I just wanted to be the coach."

To be entrusted with the task of restoring UCLA was an honor beyond measure to Howland, who grew up in the Los Angeles suburb of Goleta, Calif. entranced by the Bruin mystique. He would watch UCLA games on television, then, with the volume turned low to keep his parents from hearing and sending him to bed, he would watch the game again on the late-night local replay, a precursor of the way now he watches and re-watches tape of opponents into the wee hours. "He's Mr. Rewind," says forward Josh Shipp. "He can take a five-second piece of tape and go back over it 10 times and show you something new each time."

Even now, to engage Howland in a trivia contest about UCLA basketball is to invite certain humiliation. "He's a walking UCLA encyclopedia," says his wife Kim, with whom Howland has two children, Meredith and Adam. "Ask who the sixth man was in 1968 and he won't just tell you the answer, he'll give you the starting five, [too]." Not just watching, but studying the Bruins was a common pastime among SoCal kids of the era. "It wasn't just me," he says. "All my friends back then loved the Bruins and knew everything about them. We could name the key players and the bit players. UCLA just seemed like the classiest, most successful program you could imagine."
Well thanks to Coach Howland there are going to hundreds and thousands of kids who are going to see our Ben Ball warriors under him as one of the "classiest and most successful" program could ever imagine.  Also, Matt Taitt from has a great profile on Coach Howland's "mind boggling" 3 straight run to the Final-4. Just a great read over morning coffee on the day of the Final-4.

And if you are still jonesing to read some more read the Big Fella's thoughts on our alma mater on this day. Also Jill Painter from the DN has a run down on UCLA's 10 greatest tourney moments.

At this point I am done reading. As mentioned above we will put up a pre game thread in couple of hours that will keep you going until the MOJO filled game thread comes up tonight. Enjoy your Final-4 Saturday. LET'S GO.