We have posts on perspective and the Minnesota game by the numbers. The national media is burying us and shoot even the President picked against us. But I feel very confident. How confident? I bet a relative in Minnesota and if I lose I have to eat lutefisk. I am not eating fish jello because the Bruins are going to win.
Reason 1. Ben Howland. Yes Ben is deservedly coaching one of his last games. But while we have been focusing on his failures, there are some positives of Ben to remember. He does not often lose games in which he has time to prepare and he has not lost to higher seeds in the NCAA tournament. He has lost just once to a higher seed, the 2006 Championship game to Florida. He is not going to lose to Minnesota.
Reason 2. Tubby Smith. On the flip side, Tubby Smith has yet to win a game in the NCAA tournament at Minnesota. In his five previous seasons he got there twice and lost in the first round both times. He also lost in the NIT first round. Rumors are that he has lost a step. I guess you could argue his team did get to the finals of the NIT last season but then they lost to Stanford.
Reason 3. Streaks. Minnesota has lost their last three and 11 of their last 16 after a great start. UCLA is 7-2 in their last nine and more importantly has turned up the intensity in games. Yes the Bruins lost Jordan Adams which is huge. But Norman Powell was the starter at the beginning of the season and for one game that isn't the third in three days look for UCLA to be more like the team of the seven wins.
Reason 4. Minnesota can't score. Minnesota has scored 53 points or less in 8 of their last 14 games including just 48 against lowly Northwestern. This is a team that has problems scoring. There is no way UCLA scores less than 53 points against Minnesota and even won its low scoring game of the season 59-57 over UW.
Reason 5. Minnesota ranks 213 in turnovers per game in the country. UCLA's defense lives for turnovers which key the offense. Look for UCLA to be able to run on Minnesota. (Yes, again, the lack of Jordan Adams hurts but UCLA as a team is opportunistic on defense.)
Reason 6. UCLA is used to winning while losing the battle off the boards which Minnesota will win. So yes Minnesota's big guy Trevor Mbakwe is really good and will get some offense rebound buckets but he has not shot the ball more than 10 times in a game this season. In other words, Minnesota does not know how to get him the ball enough.
Reason 7. Larry Drew II. Who is this guy? Drew leads UCLA in three point percentage at a spectacular 45%. We knew he could pass but Drew's shooting has been off the charts at times in recent games. Yes, Arizona shut him down but they geared their entire defense to stopping Drew and still lost. He scored 20 and 14 in the other PAC 12 games and has now scored in double digits 6 of his last 10. While Shabazz is still the number one option, Larry Drew II is a viable scoring option now on offense instead of the player people dared to shoot early in the season.
Reason 8. Minnesota's last road or neutral site win was January 9. This is not a team that travels well. UCLA has won big games on the road like at Arizona and their personal bugaboo Washington. UCLA also did well in Vegas.
Reason 9. Yes, Minnesota beat a very good Indiana team and a good Wisconsin team but both those teams rely on bigs scoring inside. UCLA best scoring big scores from the outside. While everyone is focusing on the rebounding edge that Minnesota has, no one is focusing on the scoring edge UCLA has.
Reason 10. UCLA is clutch, Minnesota is not. Minnesota has lost all three of its close (5 points or less ) road or neutral court games this calendar year. UCLA is 3-1 in Overtime games and 11-2 in games decided by 5 points or less, including 6-0 on the road or a neutral court. UCLA is use to the pressure of the big game. Shabazz and company will rise above in a close pressure filled NCAA game.
UCLA is going to win against Minnesota.