Those weren't our Ben Ball Warriors on the Alamodome floor tonight. DC was not the player we had seen he past three years. Love was not the player we had seen all season. Most of all, this was not the Coach Howland we've grown accustomed to. Our Bruins did not play like they had all season and you've got to give Memphis a lot of credit for that. They said, "this is our game and we're going to play it our way."
Before I dive into the game, let me say, WE MADE THE FINAL FOUR. That's damn impressive and while tonight may have been a disappointment, in no way was this season.
First, DC was totally outplayed tonight by any player he guarded or guarded him. It was just a bad, bad night for DC and while Memphis had a lot to do with it, it started long before a Tiger hit the floor. I got into the Alamodome as soon as the doors opened and DC was out there shooting. He couldn't hit a shot even then. It was just one of those nights for him that everybody has, he just picked a bad time for his. For the first time all season, I think we may see DC in a Bruins uniform next season and a scout I talked to at the game tonight agreed with me. He said we saw DC against an NBA caliber player and we wasn't up to the task. When players are as fast as DC, he doesn't have much of a game left and he's going to have to develop that. If he returns and can do that next season, he may be a mid 1st round pick, bu according to the scout, he's a bottom of the first round pick and could drop the the second with a bad workouts or two. Everyone had bad nights, his just came at an extremely bad time, but he was the leader of a Final Four team...that's nothing to be ashamed of regardless of tonight's performance.
Second, I didn't see the tenacity in Love's game. We're used to see a bruiser and a battler, but that wasn't there tonight. He's been so good all season, but he had a couple flashes of being a freshman tonight. While it may be easy to bash him for those freshman moments tonight, remember that he is a freshman, we've just been spoiled by him playing like a senior all year. Too bad we won't see him back next season (as much as I'd love to see it, I just can't see him back) and being the stud we saw all year. Still, Love was a great Bruin and I'm thankful for the year he gave us.
Thirdly, and probably most disappointing was Howland getting outcoached. Looking at individual player matchups, I saw a lot of Memphis talent and athleticism, but on the bench I saw a clear advantage for ourselves. That didn't play out as planned though because Calipari put together a great gameplan, while Howland struggled to keep up. Howland's biggest fault is that he's extremely stubborn and it showed tonight. Our best move tonight would have been to sit DC. He was ineffective offensively and was getting killed defensively where he couldn't matchup with the size of the Tigers. Had Howland pulled DC, we could have brought in Keefe, Aboya or Mata to help control the boards and most importantly, dropped Luc to the 3 where he could match up with Douglas-Roberts. There were many other questionable coaching decisions and Howland certainly was outcoached. However, Howland lost on one night and I think he allowed one bad night after 5 years of fantastic work.
With seemingly everyone struggling, the two men who led us tonight were Westbrook and Luc. Westbrook kept us in the game in the first half and was our most potent player for all 40 minutes. He got after it on both sides of the court and if DC does go pro, Westbrook proved once and for all that he can handle the point. The downside to Westbrooks performance? He looked so good he may have gotten one NBA team to fall in love and convince him to turn pro. Luc was also great, doing the dirty work and doing everything we could ask of him. Would I have liked him to lay off those 15 foot jumpers? Yes, but that'd be nitpicking in an otherwise terrific performance.
We beat out over 300 teams to make it to the Final Four. We made it here for the third consecituve year, a mind boggling feat. We are bringing in the nation's number one recruiting class and despite his dismal night, we have Howland at the helm. I think we're going to be alright.
Lastly, I'd like to give a big thank you to Lorenzo Mata-Real. He represented the university with class for four seasons and I wish him nothing but the best. He deserved a national title, but three Final Fours is still a great accomplishment. Lorenzo, you are a true Bruin and I think you for your hard work and character.