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UCLA Basketball: Bruins Nation's NCAA Tournament Roundtable Discussion

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With the first weekend of the 2015 NCAA Tournament in the books, the writers and editors of Bruins Nation take a look at last weekend's action and what lays ahead for the Bruin basketball team.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

1. The goaltending call. Was it the right call? Yes or No?

Fox71: Yes. The consensus of pundits who’ve I’ve read say it was. Moreira says it was ("I should have let the ball hit the rim").

Bruinette88: It was a correct call. The official judged that the ball had a possibility of entering the basket. Whether or not the official was right in that judgment is a different question.

uclaluv: Okay, I’ll say no. I may be getting older, meaning my eyesight is clearly worsening, but from the angle on the floor, the ball looked way off to the right and not above the rim when he touched it. Even Bryce said, he thought it had a chance to touch the rim, meaning it probably wouldn’t. So was it above the rim or level or below when the player touched it? To me it looked below to level, so I say no. However, my former student, in whom I trust all things basketball, said it was the correct call, so I’ll defer to her. I do think it is strange that such a shot would be included in the statistics, implying it had a chance of going in, where clearly it didn’t.

DCBruins: Yes.  And keep in mind Looney had the ball and at least would have tied it if it was not called.

JoeBruin15: The problem with the TV angles that were shown is that none of them were from the angle of the official who made the call. Only two of the three officials could make that call. The official on the baseline (who was actually closest to the basket) is supposed to have his eyes on the players in the close to the baseline, especially those in the key, but he isn't supposed to look up because that could cause him to miss something only he can see. It was the official on the opposite sideline who made the call. From that spot, in his judgment, it was goaltending. Because it was a judgment call, it isn't reviewable. But, understanding that, I think he made the right call.


2. The field has been reduced from 68 to 16. What was the biggest surprise in the tournament so far?

Fox: Is this a trick question? I’ll give you my three-way tie for the biggest surprise: UCLA going to the Sweet Sixteen, Villanova, a team from the EAST, and a number one seed, going home, and ESPN not having already declared the tournament over with Duke winning. Well, maybe I’ll just go with the first one.

Bruinette88: Second round losses by the top two teams (Villanova and Virginia) in the East Region. It's the first time in over a decade that a region is without both its No. 1 and No. 2 seed heading into the Sweet Sixteen.

uclaluv: I have to agree with Fox and Bruinette that the biggest surprise is that Villanova and Virginia are gone after the first weekend. Also, Kentucky didn’t look that good the other night. Maybe they’re saving it all for us? Another surprise is that my Midwest bracket is almost perfect. One last surprise, for me and the the entire Bruin team, that UAB didn’t double Tony, especially after Larry Brown showed how dropping guys into the paint could be effective. Unless of course one of our guards got crazy hot from the 3 point line. I wonder what Doug Gottlieb’s biggest surprise is?

DCBruins: The PAC 12 is a pretty good conference. Three teams in the Sweet 16 and 7-1.

JoeBruin15: I agree with DC. All we've heard all season is how the Pac-12 was not a tough conference, but having three teams in the Sweet 16 would seem to contradict that and, of course, there's been no bigger surprise than UCLA.


3. UCLA won Thursday’s game with three pointers, but Saturday’s game by going inside. Which offensive strategy do you think will be more effective as the Bruins move through the Tournament?

Fox: Lawyer answer: It depends. It depends on what the Zags are doing. They have to respect both the inside and the outside game that we have, and we have to figure a way to exploit what they give us (something that we didn’t have enough time to figure out the last time we played.)

Bruinette88: I don't think the Bruins can survive against elite teams without having a balanced attack. That doesn't mean that our scoring has to be evenly balanced between points in the paint and points from the perimeter, but we have to be successful in getting the ball inside throughout the game. In our early season matchup against the Zags, we attempted 19 3-pointers while Parker and Welsh combined for just 9 shots. Against UAB, in what I consider one of our best offensive performances of the season, the shot distribution was reversed: Parker and Welsh took 18 shots, and we attempted only 9 threes. If we are going to beat the Zags on Friday, we have to repeat the formula we used against UAB.

uclaluv: The wise people who have written already have it right. We need a balanced inside/out attack. If I had to choose, I’d say our inside game needs to get it going. I’ve always thought it was better to rely on an inside game than an outside game, mainly because it’s easier to shoot from 2 feet away than from 20 feet away. However, Gonzaga’s inside men play strong defense, and well, are just strong, so we will need the guards to play well and score. I could see the Zags clogging the lane like SMU did, not only stopping our bigs, but preventing our slashers from scoring.

DCBruins: We tried to go inside often against SMU. They stopped it. Against UAB they did not. Regardless we have to try to go inside because either way it sets up the outside game.

JoeBruin15: I think it's important that we try to get the ball inside in order to set up the outside shots. The inside shots are much higher percentage ones. Even though Bryce has shown he is an excellent three-point shooter, we will score more by getting the ball into the paint first and balance it out with three-pointers when the opportunity arises. If the Zags shut us down inside, we could be forced to go outside like we did against SMU.


4. We’ve seen the team collapse late in the game frequently throughout the season. UCLA gave up a 19-0 second half run to SMU Thursday, but never allowed UAB back into Saturday’s game. What would you say the team did differently to prevent a second half comeback by the Blazers?

Fox: I think we played with more confidence than in any other game. I think we knew we had already beaten them, and we knew we could beat them and would beat them. That was the stabilizing force, I think. Now, how do we work this in reverse?

Bruinette88: Ultimately it comes down to the fact that we found so many different ways to score against UAB. For a team prone to scoring droughts, having all of our scoring options available and effective is essential. A big reason we saw this against UAB is that Parker avoided early foul trouble. When Parker can be aggressive on the offensive end, our offense is stronger and steadier. Against UAB, the offense didn't sputter, so we never gave UAB a genuine chance to close the gap.


uclaluv: I think when this team gets a little tired or ahead, they have a tendency to stop playing team ball. It’s not just Bryce. Several players start taking the easy way out and try to do it on their own. In the UAB game, I thought the team play actually improved as the game went on. I was really impressed by how the offense started weaving through the lane, creating openings for the bigs as the slashers pulled defenders.

I also think, when they get ahead, they get a little too clever. One player in particular tends to like to do a behind the back pass when a simple bounce pass would do. John Wooden would sit that player down for that. Unfortunately, those passes often times end in turnovers and easy scores at the other of the court and can shift momentum. So, 1. Continue to play as a team. 2. Stay focused and play within yourselves.

DCBruins: We had a talent advantage over UAB.  It was obvious the whole game.  Our bench did not hurt us against UAB as it did against SMU.  I am not sure we really did much different, just a different quality opponent.

JoeBruin15: It may not have been anything we did differently. It could just be that UAB didn't have the fire power to come back like other teams have against us.


5. Gonzaga was the only team to beat UCLA at home this season. It wasn’t much of a contest. The Zags took a lead 4-2 and never trailed again. What are the keys to victory for UCLA?

Fox: Pass. I’m not being paid the enormous salary that is required to answer a question like that. But seriously folks, I would say sticking with fundamentals, assuming we know any fundamentals.

Bruinette88: I remember being really impressed by the efficiency of Gonzaga's offense in that game. The stats from the game show how good and versatile the Zags were in scoring against us: 58.5% from the field, 47.4% on threes, and 84.2% from the line. If you look at the four factors, the factor that separated the two teams was shooting efficiency. Unless we improve our defensive performance, it's hard to see how we turn around the result from our previous matchup.

uclaluv: Mark Few gets the most interesting players. Each player seems to bring something special to the table and they play as a team. I mean they look like a well oiled machine, consistently. So I think defense is going to be the key. I also think, defending this team is a huge challenge. Do you collapse into the paint and let Pangos go crazy from the outside? Do you stay out with the guards and give Karnosky more space inside? And whatever you do, how do you stop the exceptional passing and teamwork the Zags play with?

DCBruins: Good news, we are not the same team as in that game. Isaac Hamilton led us in shot attempts with 16; almost all of which were bad. We weren’t really trying to go inside. I wrote after the game: "This may have been the worst set offense I have seen in a while. There really wasn't any. It was all individual effort. The motion offense was nowhere to be seen." The seeds of the Kentucky and Utah debacles were sown in this game. We don’t do that anymore, so we will be better on offense.

JoeBruin15: They need to keep playing like a team and exploit what Gonzaga gives them. But, most importantly, they need to play tough defense and avoid a big second half run by Gonzaga.


Bonus: Predict the winner: UCLA or Gonzaga? Score?

Fox: No reasonable person would predict that UCLA will win. I therefore predict UCLA will win. Coach Few has taken Gonzaga to the tournament 16 straight years. He made it to the Sweet Sixteen three times, but Gonzaga didn’t make it past the first game any of those times. You could say that he’s overdue, or you could say that he’s bumping up against the Peter Principle (and has found his level of incompetence). (I’m leaving out that his record for advancement in the NCAA tournament is better than that of certain others.) So I say we win 70-60, thanks to a slew of free throws at the end of the game.

Bruinette88: Gonzaga, unfortunately. Our record against elite teams this year isn't good. Unless all of our starters avoid foul trouble, I'm afraid we are likely to see a replay of our previous encounter. Final score: 85-69, Gonzaga.

uclaluv: Even though I’m not a reasonable person much of the time, I still have to go with Gonzaga. I think the Bruins have been playing really good ball lately and will challenge Gonzaga this time around. However, I think the Bulldogs are just too good.

DCBruins: Is UCLA’s Defense for real? Can Kevon Looney defend against a really good offense player? UCLA’s defense has been better recently. How much can the well run machine of Gonzaga’s offense impose their will on UCLA? That will will be a true test and may decide the game.  I say we have a shot, but Gonzaga pulls it out because as Bruinette says one of our key players or more will foul out.

JoeBruin15: It will take a second half comeback by the Zags, but they will prove to be too much for the Bruins. Gonzaga by 6, 72-66.


Double Bonus: What is your upset special for this weekend?

Fox: I was impressed by West Virginia. Bob Huggins (yep, the guy who had a graduation rate for one of his Cincinnati teams that tied the GPA for the Delta House) has his team looking good. So I’ll give them a big win over their next opponent. (Yikes - is that Kentucky? Well, if I’m going to go down, I’ll go down in flames.)

Bruinette88: I'll go with Wichita St. over Notre Dame. I think it's a 50/50 game with the winner earning the right to lose to Kentucky in the regional final.

uclaluv: I’ll pick three. Wichita State ( and the coach I wish we had hired) over Notre Dame. Michigan State over Oklahoma (again, coaching). And a wish: Utah over Duke. I guess the last one would be the most special.

DCBruins: Witchia State.  Marshall is a great tourney coach.

JoeBruin15: I'm going with the Shockers over Notre Dame in a single game and Louisville to win the East Regional and make the Final Four.