Following the Bruins' first victory of the season over Division 2 Chaminade, they must turn around quickly and prepare for by far their toughest test of the season in the 14th ranked Kansas Jayhawks after their opening round victory over Georgetown. The biggest advantage UCLA will carry into this game is the extra three hours of rest due to the KU-Gtown game being after ours. Going deeper, it appears as though UCLA will have to find a gear it has not yet displayed if it's going to have a chance of notching its first win of the season against a Division 1 opponent.
Some may recall last year's highway robbery in Lawrence as Tyler Honeycutt's one standout game of the year was overshadowed by some questionable antics. If there is a revenge factor in play here, it will be minor next to the list of problems KU will pose.
Having caught only the first half of last night's Kansas game, what I saw will be a concern for those who believe that our 92 point outburst against a Div 2 team would be the norm. KU's most impressive defensive possessions came as they rolled out a hard nosed physical man-to-man defense eerily reminiscent of how the Ben Ball Warriors used to play. While the defense didn't extend as far out as some of the past UCLA teams and the hedge and trap are less of a feature, Kansas is simply quicker and recovers much better, bumping cutters, and closing down passing lanes soon after they open. This is obviously a worry for a team like the Bruins who often have trouble making even uncontested passes inside.
While I expect KU (and every other team this year) to pay special attention to Josh Smith down low, they should be able to get away with sagging off of our other players like they were doing to Georgetown until we prove we can hit shots. It was nice to see Jerime Anderson and Norman Powell make Chaminade pay from the perimeter, but they will need help in that department from their teammates if Smith or Reeves Nelson expect to have any room to operate down low.
On the other end of the floor, Thomas Robinson looked like a load last night, and I expect Reeves Nelson to draw that assignment. We are going to need the Reeves that shut down Derrick Williams last year or Robinson will have his way with the rest of our frontline. He finished last night with 20 points and 12 rebounds against a far more lengthy and active Georgetown frontcourt. UCLA will likely also have to go small when KU puts Tyshawn Taylor, Travis Releford, and Elijah Johnson on the floor, all of whom appear to have the athleticism and footspeed our guards lack. I don't know who is going to pick up Taylor, but I don't like Lazeric Jones or Tyler Lamb for that matchup. Anderson or Powell may have a chance at it, but with two other guards to worry about there is likely going to be confusion, and whoever is playing the three is definitely going to need help.
Tipoff is 6:30 Pacific on ESPN, and the Bruins better be ready at gametime unlike last night, because while the Jayhawks may be inexperienced, they still appear to have things more figured out than this UCLA team and they have the talent to bury us quickly if we don't come out and match their energy and intensity.