Friday, March 28, 2008

UCLA Scouting Report

A true blue blood in college basketball. Many, many would say UCLA has better legacy overall than Kentucky, North Carolina, Duke and Indiana. They do not hang Final Four Banners at Pauley Pavillion, only national titles. They have 11 of them. Sure they appreciate playing on the final weekend but they expect to win it all. Ben Howland is an excellent coach and has guided the Bruins to the last two final fours and one national championship game. He had the misfortune of facing the Florida Gators is all. Please note UCLA has only been playing 8 outside of the Mississippi Valley State game in the tournament. We will only profile those players all though a fab frosh like Chace Stanback may get some minutes if the situation is right. Now to the primaries:

Starting 5:

#2 Darren Collison 6-0 160 Jr. 14.7 PPG: Collison is the straw that stirs the drink. He averages 3.7 APG and shoots the trey at an incredible 52%. Burrell meet Mr. Collison. Hang all over the guy as soon as he steps on the floor. That is no easy task. This guy may be the fastest point guard in the country. Collison has been clocked running the 40 yard dash faster than Yamon Figurs of the Baltimore Ravens who ran the fastest 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine last April. You play him tight, he blows by you. Lay off too much and he drops a bomb on you. He is slight of frame but Muskie fans knows that doesn't always tell the story. He could have been a lottery selection if he entered the draft last year. He returned for two reasons: to get stronger and win a national championship.

#0 Russell Westbrook 6-3 189 So. 12.4 PPG: He is a redshirt sophomore and he will play the point in the very rare occassions Collison is not on the floor. He is a very talented player with all the tools you look for in a scorer. He has decent (32%) three point capability. Westbrook also scrapes on the boards very well and when he is not at the '2' Josh Shipp slides over. Lavender will draw this matchup and I think you will see the typical attempt at post up moves on #24. The problem with that unless you do that as part of your offense regularly (ala LaSalle) your guards usually aren't used to it.

#3 Josh Shipp 6-5 220 Jr. 12.5 PPG: Josh is equally comfortable at forward as he is at wing guard. He is an average three point marksman and was in a slump the first two tournament games. He picked it up against the Hilltoppers. Shipp has battled injuries throughout his career and comes from a family of ballers. His two brothers also have played at PAC 10 schools with Jerren currently being at Arizona State. He will hurt Anderson on the perimeter so I wouldn't be too suprised to see DBrown draw this assignment.

#23 Luc Ricard Mbah a Moute 6-8 232 Jr. 8.5 PPG: He is a prince of his village in Cameroon but this guy plays like a warrior. He is good at rebounding, blocking shots, and making steals. If UCLA had a 'glue guy' this would be Luc. He is not a good three point shooter at all. He uses his considerable athleticism to garner stickbacks, dunk emphatically, and he is a great finisher on the break. He can make slick back hand passes from the high post too. Anderson checks him IMO.

#42 Kevin Love 6-10 271 Fr. 17.6 PPG 10.7 RPG: When a school will take a jersey down from the rafters (the Bruins had retired #42 for Walt Hazzard) and give it to a freshman you know he is very, very special. Big Kev backed it up with a double double and a 35% mark from three range. He is a top three player in this wonderful freshman class and he shoots, passes, rebounds and outlets the ball extremely well. Lute Olson said he is the best outlet passer he has seen since Wes Unseld. Most of you young guys have no clue about big Wes. Combining 270 pounds of power, aggressiveness, fundamentals and skills (including outstanding spin moves and fakes) he wears down opponents and physically takes over games. Love hits nice contested jump hooks using the glass, muscles to post up slams, has legitimate three point range and tosses in an occassional turnaround or fade away jump shot. A tough finisher in the paint, he is accustomed to facing double teams. He also hits free throws who generally hits them in the clutch. The only ding in the armor is he is not a straight up explosive leaper but gosh if that's all that's tremendous. We are not going to stop this guy. We just can't let him be 'lottery like' and bury us. I know the team has confidence giving success against other fresh phenoms this year and that is great but this guy is a load to say the least. Guys whose dads were in the league (ala Stephen Curry) learn how to play this wonderful game the right way at a young age. Here locally many of us easily remember Wally Szcirbieak (sp?) and what he was capable of. I am simply comparing basketball IQ here folks but you get the point.


#13 James Keefe 6-8 228 So. 2.8 PPG: James is coming off a career high against WKU and was named player of the game by CBS. I guess people expect 29 and 14 from Kevin Love these days. He is very capable but there is obvious talent in front of him. He is a fine interior passer, he can block off efficiently and bangs boards at both ends. He will nail any wide open shot you give him. He has ability to put the ball on the floor and go get a good shot or he can strip the nets from distance. He also has a running sky hook. In short if there were more shots to go around Keefe would average a lot more points per. Right now he is content to set screens, do what is asked of him, and score when the opportunity presents itself.

#12 Alfred Aboya 6-9 245 Jr. 3.0 PPG: He is another athletic banger from the Cameroon. He typically saves his best for the biggest games. He willingly takes charges, dives for loose balls, and in short will do all the 'dirty' things including fouling freely and often if directed to do so. Aboya's goal is to wear down starting big men and clog the lane in relief. His footwork isn't great on the offensive end but they are not looking for that out of Alfred and he knows his role.

#4 Lorenzo Mata-Real 6-9 237 Sr. 3.2 PPG: He was the guy most impacted by Love showing up on campus. He is still a mean shot blocker and will provide minutes of relief for big #42. He is not an adept passer out of the post if were looking for weaknesses. He is not a great free throw shooter either which may also explain the decline in minutes. On the positive side he is an excellent low post defender. He has quick hands and natural instincts on ball fakes. Mata-Real also is an above average rebounder.

As mentioned earlier UCLA has other players: Chace Stanback was rated #65 overall by Rivals in one of the deepest freshman classes ever. Nikola Dragovic is a Serb who was one time mentioned as a first round NBA draft pick but chose to play college basketball. But those guys are more along front line players too. UCLA has the perfect defense for our two man game out top as they aggressively switch everything and will be in our shirt. We should take advantage of those overplays and look for the slip or backdoors early and often. Again take it right to the big guys, stay aggressive, and keep the hot shooting touch from the outside. I don't think it is fair to expect to shoot over 50% again from three land but we are going to have knock down some contested ones to keep it real. Duncan and Brown have the combination of size and speed that could present matchups favorable to us at times. Anderson will continue to be a bull and loves the big games. CJ really hasn't received enough accolades for all that he does. When the coaching staff senses were being bullied they usually run plays for CJ because he doesn't back down. I think X can win because of superior depth on the perimeter. Notice I didn't say superior talent because I think Collison is the best point we have faced all year and would be a likely lottery pick if not for all the freshman talent. That being said I feel us making it to the promise land my friends. Yes I am a 'homer' an now is not the time to waiver in our faith. We will make our run to the Alamo and enjoy all the fruits that such lofty accomplishments bring.

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