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Ben Ball Gameday Roundup: No Pressure

Well, Seth Davis, Bill Plaschke and just about everyone else in the MSM had us on a plane back home right now so we've already done the impossible. You just don't go out and defy the brilliant minds who picked against us so now we're playing with house money, right? Well, we are, but not for defying Davis and Plaschke. Let's count the reasons we've got no pressure.

1. We're essentially playing a road game.

"We understand this is like the only true road game in the NCAA Tournament,'' Howland said. "We're gonna come out and play like it's a road game.''

The Wachovia Center is only 17 miles from the Villanova campus, while Westwood is over 3,000 miles away. The Villanova fans made their voices heard Thursday during the night session and should only be louder tomorrow as all of the local Wildcats bought up the tickets sold by the fans of Thursday's losing teams.

According to Michael Tennant of, 45 percent of all his company's sales are coming from Philadelphia.

2. The Bruins are playing hurt. We all know about DC's tailbone injury and while the week off did him wonders on Thursday night, he's still not 100%.

Collison estimated his bruised tailbone is 90-percent healthy. He injured it in a hard fall vs. Oregon March 7. Collison spent eight minutes on the bench Thursday, a couple of them because he was in foul trouble.

On top of that, PAA picked up a knock on his thumb.

UCLA center Alfred Aboya had his right thumb taped for practice. He said he injured it during a second-half dunk Thursday against Virginia Commonwealth.
"It's bruised, but it will be fine," Aboya said.

Now throw in DG, who didn't play on Thursday due to a concussion, but is probable for tomorrow.

"I got looked at (Friday) and he said I would most likely be playing," Gordon said. "We have a great supporting cast, so coach should feel comfortable with the second group of guys on this team. It should be a physical game, and we're going to need a lot of guys to play."

3. Number six seeds aren't supposed to make it to the Sweet 16 and Villanova is a damn good team. UCLA isn't supposed to beat Villanova and should they lose, they'll just be following the script. The Bruins really don't have anything to lose. They can go out and play loose knowing that a loss is what's expected and a win is just gravy. The pressure isn't there for the Bruins and they can even use the Philadelphia home crowd against the Wildcats. If the Bruins get out to an early lead, you can bet the brutal Philly crowd won't hesitate to boo Nova.

So the Bruins really don't have any pressure on them and I think they know it. Check out how they spent their time in the locker room yesterday prior to practice.

They don't look too wound up to me and they have no reason to be. Not only don't they have any pressure, but they have a very real chance at going out and getting a W. Villanova isn't invincible and our Bruins are a pretty damn good team, even if the MSM refuses to acknowledge it. It's okay if the MSM doesn't recognize the opportunity we have though because the players sure do.

Shipp noted that the Wildcats sometimes send four players to the glass, leaving themselves open to fastbreaks in the other direction.

"We might be able to exploit that," he said.

That will be key for the Bruins because Villanova does a very good job of keeping teams out of the paint. If we can get some easy buckets in transition then we'll be in great shape. But just as there are opportunities in transition because of the bodies Nova sends to the glass, there is also the danger of giving up a lot of offensive boards. It will be vital for PAA to stay out of foul trouble and patrol the glass, while ND and JS will need to board like he did on Thursday. Just getting the rebound won't cut it either. With so many small guys with quick hands you can be sure that Nova will look to strip the ball right after a rebound so we better be ready to play tough and strong even after we get the board.

As always, DC will be the key to our success on the offensive and defensive end, but on Thursday night we also saw that that Jrue kid is pretty good on the ball too.

In the first round against Virginia Commonwealth, Collison's foul troubles forced Jrue Holiday to play the point -- his natural position -- and the freshman responded well, particularly when it came to driving the lane.

"It felt good because it's what I've been doing all my life," he said. "When I have the ball in my hands, I can take my guy one-on-one and break him down."

We're going to need Jrue to put the ball on the floor and get to the bucket because we can't afford to live behind the arc. Villanova tries to bait teams into jacking up a lot of threes and not only would we be playing into their hands if we start throwing them up from long distance, but it doesn't maximize the potential of our offense. Our own Don MacLean has said time and time again, if the Bruins are shooting more than 18 or 20 threes, they're in trouble. Never will that be more true than today.

The Bruins should get some more help today too. Not only does it look like DG will be able to play, but ML will see the floor too.

"He's going to play (today)," Howland said. "He's a great kid, very coachable. His parents are wonderful."

Lee said the most important thing was UCLA won, but he was disappointed with not playing.

"It really tests how much you love basketball, and I really do," Lee said. "You've got to be strong. It will either make or break you."

Well I'm glad ML has a passion for the game and hopefully he'll show some strength. It won't be easy in front of a hostile crowd and I expect some jitters when he first gets in there considering it's his first postseason game. We really shouldn't expect a lot from ML though. He's a freshman in his first NCAA Tournament game, playing in a game that we're not expected to win. All he has to do is come out with energy and play smart. Anything else is just a bonus.

The opportunities will be there for the Bruins and I hope they come out aggressive. There's no reason to hold back or play tight at this point. The guys in white will have all the pressure while we will be free to play loose. While the Bruins play loose, let's be loose as Bruin fans. I've mentioned this multiple times in the past few days and I'll do it again. Enjoy the game and enjoy the tournament. It should be a fun one for all the Bruins watching on TV, on the court and in the stands (here's looking at you and your mojo N).

The game thread should be up around 9:30 am PDT for the 10:05 am PDT tip. It's March and nothing is given to you. Villanova is the favorite today, but they won't be handed the W so hopefully the Bruins can go out there and take it from the Wildcats.