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UCLA at Washington Basketball Preview: A Team of Lorenzo Mata-Reals vs. Athletes

I like the players on our team. They execute the offense not just well but with a certain sublime perfection at times. They play hard and don't seem to give up. Our players hustle and leave it all on the court. These guys do not have an "over the wall" attitude. As a group they remind me of one of my favorite Bruins of recent years: Lorenzo Mata-Real.

LMR was my favorite Bruin on that 2006-07 Final Four team. He was the guy who would give up his body on a charge and give it his all on every play. He did all anyone could ever ask of any Bruin. He also had a shooting range of 6 feet and shot 37% from the free throw line. He had some serious limitations. He was the sixth best player on that team (if that) of four future pros and was never going to play for the NBA. He was promptly benched the next year as a senior when Kevin Love arrived.

And that is the problem with our current team. Not only are there no Kevin Loves but we are a team of LMRs. These guys play hard but none of the starters are ever going to be cashing a check in the NBA. I like how hard they work but all the starters have some serious limitations.

And that is all on Coach Ben Howland. Not just because he did not recruit well enough or missed on some other recruits but because the guys that may be future pros are not playing. Putting aside the only exception to the rule on this team on effort (Josh Smith), CBH needs to play Norman Powell and Anthony Stover more. Nestor has written if we had a freshman Arron Afflalo today, he would be riding the pine with Powell in favor of Jones and Anderson. Would the CBH of 2011-12 keep Love on the bench for LMR for not hedging well enough?

Now playing Utah and Colorado at home that sort of thing does not hurt. It is great having Travis Wear as the center to catch alley-oops and pop out for threes and jumpers. It is nice to have Jones and Anderson passing the ball so beautifully with really two point guards on the court at once. But, now is something different.

Washington at home is a team with athletes. Washington is not going to run a beautiful offense like UCLA. But Washington is going to be more athletic across the board. Tony Wroten, a starting guard for the Huskies has more rebounds than Travis Wear, UCLA's starting center, for the season. Although the Bruins are tall with five guys 6'10" or taller, it is the athletes of Washington that make the Huskies #11 in the nation in rebounding while UCLA is #202. The Huskies have the conference third-leading rebounder in their center (Aziz N'Diaye) and another top twenty guy in their power forward (Desmond Simmons). UCLA has David Wear, who sometimes plays small forward, as their only rebounder in the top 20.

The problems go deeper than rebounding. Washington has a go-to-guy or two or three. The Huskies have three scorers (Tony Wroten, Terrence Ross and C.J. Wilcox) in the top ten in the conference. UCLA has none in the top ten and only one in the top twenty: Lazeric Jones. Last year at Washington, Jerime Anderson had the then best game of his career with 16 points including four threes in the second half. The only problem was Washington's C.J. Wilcox had an even better game, scoring a career high 24 points, oh, as a freshman BTW. UCLA has not won in Seattle since 2004.

All five of the Washington players I mentioned above are underclassman and great athletes, so they actually are set up going into the future too.

UCLA is 1-4 on the road, while the Huskies are 4-1 at home in conference with the only loss coming to first place Cal.

Then there is Josh Smith. In the conference at home Josh is shooting 62% averaging 13.3 points per game and 2.66 fouls per game and 1.33 TOs. On the road in the conference he is shooting 52% and averaging 7.6 points per game, 3.4 fouls per game, and 2.4 turnovers per game. Josh is not the same, in part because of the Pac-12 refs, on the road.

UCLA could shoot 50% percent at Washington Thursday night and still lose. Of course when you have less talent you can do certain things to equalize the game. Not run and play zone for example. But I have to think the Huskies will try to speed the game up and I doubt CBH will play zone.

CBH lost the talented Mike Moser to transfer, he booted the head case all-Pac-10 Reeves Nelson , and keeps some talented players on the bench in favor of experience. It seems like the talent and defense of Stover and Powell will be needed against the Huskies. Will CBH play them or will the experienced players play 30+ minutes or more in the game?

This team plays hard and executes the offense well. He has the starters playing close to its ability. Is that enough?

Thursday night's game is nationwide on ESPN will prove if that is enough against a young team with more and better athletes at home. I know the players will try their hearts out like LMR, but will CBH give them a chance to be in a position to win?

Go Bruins.