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Ben Ball Roundup: Focusing On Thursday Night

Sounds like we all own Seth Davis some thank you notes this week for helping set the mindset of UCLA basketball team. From Dan Webber in the Press Enterprise (emphasis added throughout):

Adding insult to injury, of all 65 NCAA teams named Sunday, UCLA was singled out as CBS college basketball analyst Seth Davis' first-round upset special.

"I pick VCU to beat UCLA in the upset," Davis said, not once but three times.

"Good for Seth," Howland said. "We're the underdog. It's different for us."

I certainly hope a Howland coached team wouldn't nonsense from a Duke grad to get fired up for March Madness, but hey every bit of psychological edge (or boost) helps at this time of the year.

I also agree with bruinponhco re. flying under the radar a bit heading into Philly. As stung as we all were from this weekend's (worthless) Pac-10 tournament, the disappointment has taken the pressure off our basketball team. Just from pov, right now I don't expect this team to make it past Philadelphia and I also think it wouldn't be a shocker (although if I were the VCU Rams, I wouldn't be too happy about UCLA being called out so publicly on national TV by Seth Davis) if we fall on Thursday night, especially if we are not playing consistent.

FWIW the team is going with the old "us v. the world" cliche:

They will travel 2,721 miles, and should they get past the Rams, a date with No. 3 seed Villanova, which plays many of its Big East games at Wachovia Center, is likely coming in the second round. The Wildcats play No. 14 seed American in the first round.

"It's cool for (Villanova) and it's kind of cool for us, too," Bruins freshman guard Jrue Holiday said. "It's kind of us-against-the-world mentality. We had it at Cal and played well. We had it at Stanford."

There is a big difference here of course. VCU is a better team than Stanford and it will not be as easy for the Bruins to mount a comeback of they come out on Thursday night with the same lack of intensity they showed early on against the Cardinal in Palto Alto. They will be toast. So I hope JH and his team-mates are awake when they are tipping off on Thursday night.

As for VCU, they are coached by an individual who has a pretty good idea about scheming against Ben Ball:

Rams third-year coach Anthony Grant was an assistant with Florida in 2006, when the Gators beat UCLA in the national title game.

"Obviously UCLA's a great program and has a tremendous history," Grant said. "We're going to try to learn as much as we can about them right away, but obviously they're a great team. They're well coached and have had a great deal of success over the last few years under Ben Howland. We have tremendous respect for what they've been able to accomplish."

More on the Rams from the LAT:

Much like UCLA, the 11th-seeded Rams pride themselves on shutting down opponents. Under Coach Anthony Grant, they play a "94 feet both ways" style that emphasizes pressure defense along with plenty of running the court.

There also might be some intriguing matchups. UCLA has senior point guard Darren Collison, an All-Pac-10 player. VCU answers with guard Eric Maynor, whose aggressiveness and court vision earned him player-of-the-year honors in the Colonial Athletic Assn.

Both have capable big men, as well. Bruins senior Alfred Aboya, named to the Pac-10's all-defensive team, will square off against counterpart Larry Sanders, a shot blocker and the CAA's defensive player of the year. [...]

"They're a team that really is a high-octane, run up and down, press you," Howland said.

Which means Collison needs to recover in a hurry from a sore tailbone that dates to the fall he took against Oregon in the regular-season finale. Lingering pain hampered him against USC last week, though Sunday he said: "I feel a lot better."

Well I am going to assume Howland is not going to have DC guarding Maynor (and make the same mistake from the Memphis game when he had DC taking on Rose). IMHO Bruins will have to guard Maynor with JH early on and if JH cannot handle him, Howland should sub in ML.

Also, the other player mentioned by the LAT report was PF-C Larry Sanders, who had a monster game in their conference final with 18 points, 20 boards, and 7 blocks. He can be foul prone though and has a assist to TO ratio of 1 to 15.5. Still it will be imperative for PAA and rest of our frontcourt to set a physical tone early on to make sure he doesn't get established early. As much as everyone complained about Taj Gibson's obvious hack against PAA on Fri night, that play set the tone for that night to which PAA and his team-mates never really responded. Hopefully things will be a little different on Thursday night.

Taking a cursory look at their record they only have one win against a tourney team which came against Akron. They lost to the Sooners in their other mathup against a tourney squad. Their other losses came against Northeastern, Old Dominion, Delaware, Vandy, Oklahoma, Nevada, and and UNC-Wilmington. But I wouldn't get too comfortable with that info because you can bet they are going to come out with a different level of intensity to "upset" UCLA and create their ESPN Classic highlights ala Princeton, which always comes on to torment Bruin Nation this time of the year.

We will gather more notes on the Rams in coming days keeping our frontpage focus only on VCU.Given the draw we have I don't think we have the luxury to think beyond Thursday night.