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Ben Ball Roundup: Matchup Problem v. Zona?

Remember all the “self-motivational” rhetoric coming out of Tucson from about a month ago when Arizona’s Nic Wise went public with their locker room pep talk about how they “can beat UCLA in Pauley Pavilion” and “at home”?

Well all of that might have been just innocent pep talk on the part of Wise and rest of his Wildcats, but after they went public with it following their upset win over (then #4 ranked) Gonzaga, the message was received by the Ben Ball warriors. UCLA coaches made sure that all of our guys saw that note and post it in the Bruin locker room. In return, our guys are not saying much and saying the right things in public. MR is treating like “any other game”:

"All season long they've been talking about how they want to come into Pauley Pavilion and beat us, and that's just one of our goals, to protect home court," Bruins wing Michael Roll said. "(Coaches) put it on our lockers this week. It's kind of like a chip on our shoulder. People think they can come in and do that so easy ... but we're just going to prepare like it's any other game, and treat it like that."

And JH is getting used to dealing with having a target on the UCLA jersey every game:

For freshman guard Jrue Holiday, the bulletin board material drove home something that he has been hearing since the start of the season.

"Coach tells us every game that every team is going to give us their best game," he said. "And every game we have to come back with something strong."

Speaking of saying strong, Coach Howland is “anticipating” that ND will start again this Thursday night. In his comments reported in the LA Howland gave his take on how ND has “closed” the defensive gap between him and JK:

Keefe is considered the better defender, though Howland said "I think that Nik has closed the gap."

On offense, the coach says he believes Dragovic represents a big man who can dribble, move without the ball and shoot from outside.

"He gives us another threat where he can be another double-figure scorer," Howland said. "You've got to worry about him."

Yet Howland made it clear he will not hesitate to go with JK if ND doesn’t keep up the intensity on defensive:

Howland said Dragovic won't continue to play if he doesn't defend well.

"His roots and upbringing were to stand in a zone over there in Serbia waiting to get the ball on offense so he could go shoot … no offense to the Serbian basketball," Howland said.

Gotta love the candor.

ND and rest of his team-mates will need to stay alert against an Arizona team that is capable of offensive explosion with two players in Pac-10’s top5 in scoring average per game (Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger). Hill is going to be a huge headache just like Gibson was heading into this past game. It will be imperative for AA2 (and DG) to play smart and in control while not giving up ground on defense.

It will be interesting to see what Howland throws to contain Budinger. My impression is that Howland will ask JH to take on Budinger because he might be too athletic for JS to defend. But rye brings up a good point that Budinger’s height advantage could be a detriment for JH. Rye is right in that we can’t afford to let Chase get in any kind of rhythm because if he gets in rhythm he will become an even tougher matchup. I think the key will be for our guys to play aggressive and physical early on. Our guards will have to do everything they can to make Wise as uncomfortable as possible forcing him to hurry in their offensive sets.

Per the reports linked above ML is practicing this week and he would have been available if Howland called his number last Sunday night. Hopefully it was a matter of Howland using extra caution allowing him to get fully healthy. We can really use ML’s quickness and athleticism on both ends of the court on Thursday night.