This is what you have to know about the OSU Beavers (12-5, 3-2):
- They play slowly and deliberately. They will pass and pass until they get an open perimeter look. If you play them man, they will look for the back door. Much of their stat line is deceptive. They rate low across the board offensively, 259th in points per game, but once you look at those figures on a per possession or per opportunity basis, the Beavers start to look pretty good.
- On the other hand, their defense is highly rate -- 13th in points allowed per game. They play almost entirely zone. It's a 3-2 that can look like a 2-3 -- it's very active
- They are 10-0 at home including the big upset win over Arizona.
- Wayne Tinkle searched the baseball and football teams and pick-up games to fill out his roster. OSU lost the five leading scorers from last year's team. Watch out for next year -- the class was rated in the top ten at one point -- helps getting your son and your assistant coach's son (one is from Montana and the other one is from Torrance - FYI in the event Bryce Alford just popped into your head).
There's not too much point talking about match-ups. They are going to play a zone just like they did against Washington State (which is a UCLA-lite) unless they are down in a close game in the late stages, and you will never remember their player names again until they visit Pauley in early February - except for Gary Payton II who leads the team in almost everything.
This game is about the Bruins. They cannot allow OSU to play at their own pace -- ask Washington State whose game plan was blow out of the water (they scored 15 points in the first half). Although OSU has beefy, offensive linemen-type bigs in starters Daniel Gomis, Olaf Schaftenaar and backup Jamaal Reid, they are not mobile or springy enough to cover Looney and Parker. The Beavers lost depth when sixth man Victor Robbins was suspended for ten games.
Steve Alford has to have his team ready to execute against the zone. In this case, having Looney at the foul line is not going to work as well because the Beavers cover that spot with the 3-2 - unless Bryce can stretch them. On defense, teams zone the Beavers but I don't think UCLA can stretch the zone enough to stop the open 3 from the corner. It seems obvious that Powell has to cover Payton.
Besides the minimal talent, if OSU has a weakness, it is turnovers and fouls. Point Guard Malcom Duvivier's turnover percent is 21.8%. Washington State doubled him successfully in their mid-second half run. Their big men foul because they aren't mobile.
The comparative stats are surprising unless you look inside as noted above. OSU values their low number of possessions which makes than an efficient team -- the opposite of UCLA. Thus, on the offensive side, they lead UCLA in eFG%, FTR% and are tied in OR%. In other words, they are patient and wait for the open shot, and often get fouled late in the clock. UCLA meanwhile has been horrendous from long distance resulting in a lot of opportunities but many are long rebounds out of Parker/Looney's reach. On the flip side, again they turn the ball over and foul a lot.
The line isn't out yet, but I will make the call for Vegas: UCLA -2. There's been much skepticism in the comment threads about UCLA's ability to win on the road in Gill Coliseum: the Bruins have not won outside of Los Angeles (except UAB in the B4A) and OSU is 10-0 at home including the upset of Arizona. I would not be surprised by a loss. However, if the Bruins can stick to the inside-out formula away from Pauley and speed OSU up with the ¾ trap, I think (he said warily) UCLA wins. There is a rumor floating around that Parker has back spasms (UPDATE: Tony is a game time decision). Let's hope Tony is okay.