Thursday, March 23, 2006

UCLA vs. Gonzaga: Game Day Stories

By Bruin Basketball Report

Stories from outside the L.A. Writer's Beat Beltway

In all-West throwdown, Gonzaga can prove it belongs: All right, Gonzaga. This is your chance. It's time for you to Zag up. Or whatever you call it in Spokane when you need to prove a point. In tonight's case, if you really wish to prove that you really want to call yourself the best basketball team on the Left Coast, you must get right with UCLA. You must beat the Bruins in Oakland. Mercury News

Bulldogs are even bigger underdogs in some eyes: Not often in recent years has Gonzaga been an underdog in the NCAA tournament. The Zags have consistently been the better-seeded team in their recent matchups, dating to the 2003 second-round game in which they were a No. 9 pitted against No. 1 Arizona in a memorable, double-overtime loss to the Wildcats. Tonight, they're a No. 3 seed against UCLA's No. 2, and the point spread is variously 3 or 4, favoring the Bruins. Seattle Times

UCLA thinking national championship: UCLA defeated California less than two weeks ago to win the Pac-10 championship. There will be no banner hanging at Pauley Pavilion next season to commemorate the triumph. Just about every other school in the country would find such an accomplishment worthy of tribute.Not at UCLA. It's just not a big enough deal. That's one of the most confounding things about being a Bruin. Players choose the school because of of its glorious tradition, then spend their careers chasing the unattainable Mercury News

Mbah a Moute: UCLA's 'glue' : UCLA coach Ben Howland recruited Snohomish (Wash.) High School's Jon Brockman hard, figuring he was the kind of rugged, hard-working forward who could help rebuild the Bruins into a national power. UCLA's Luc Richard Mbah a Moute has only played basketball for five years, but was still named the Pac-10's freshman of the year. But when Brockman decided to stay close to home and committed to Washington, Howland turned his eye to a less-heralded recruit, an African-born relative newcomer to basketball who was attracting attention with his extraordinary quickness and dogged competitiveness. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute's name was harder to pronounce (it's Luke ri-SHARD umbah-a-moo-teh) but, as things have turned out, his game is just as easy on the eyes. USA Today

Some question Zags' defense: It has become fashionable this March Madness to complain about Gonzaga's defense and free throwing shooting.Pundits contend the Zags defense is too porous. Some opponents are upset that the Zags (29-3) shoot so many more free throws than their rivals, hinting at referee intimidation by their fans at home. Coach Mark Few is exasperated by the free throw controversy. The Zags do have a big advantage at the line, making 647 of 827 attempts this season, for 78 percent. Their opponents have attempted only 607 free throws, making 418 for 68 percent. The Daily World

Zags, Bruins eager to settle bragging rights: Los Angeles is celebrities, glitz and showtime basketball. Life’s a little bit slower in Spokane, Wash. When second-seeded UCLA faces third-seeded Gonzaga in the third round of the Oakland regional on Thursday night, it will be a showdown for West Coast supremacy between teams with styles and histories as different as their home cities. Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Gonzaga offer Few chances: Ben Howland knew it. So did Tubby Smith. And Roy Williams.
There are only so many college basketball Meccas. When one calls, an ambitious man listens. Even if he's already happy, successful and rich where he is. Even if he's beloved and can do no wrong. If Indiana calls, Gonzaga coach Mark Few should listen. Odds are he will. And if he's offered the job, he should take it. Odds are he will. Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Bay Area coaches pick Bruins to advance: Defense will be the difference for UCLA at this weekend's Oakland Regional, according to Bay Area coaches, who expect the Bruins to return to the Final Four for the 16th time since 1962. Five of six local Division I coaches believe UCLA will survive a field also including Gonzaga, Memphis and Bradley and be crowned regional champion Saturday at the Arena in Oakland. Inside Bay Area

Rather than Zag, Farmar zigged to UCLA: Jordan Farmar was going to be a Zag, and what a fit he would have been: seeing the floor, drilling the open three, controlling the pace and the game like he has a joystick in his hand. "He would have fit in fine," said Adam Morrison, who would have helped make Farmar one of the nation's assist leaders. "He just made his own decision." Seattle Times

You needn't squint too much to see in Ben Howland's work a bit of Pete Carroll: By any measure, the program is in better shape than it has been in at least 10 years. That does not mean the Bruins are becoming what they were under John Wooden. But they could become what USC football is under Pete Carroll, or something approaching it: the dominant program in the Pacific-10 and one of the top five in the nation, a perennial threat to reach the Final Four, an occasional national champion.``That's what we aspire to be,'' Athletic Director Dan Guerrero said Wednesday. Mercury News

UCLA's stingy defense meets formidable foe in Morrison: Every team that faces Adam Morrison and Gonzaga seems to try some new wrinkle to slow the nation's leading scorer. Not many have worked. "I've seen triangle-and-two, box-and-one, face guard ... I've seen everything," Morrison said. "Nothing really surprises me anymore. I knew coming in this year I was going to get a lot of that similar type of stuff. When teams do that, it opens it up for everybody else." San Francisco Chronicle

Zags get matchup they have long sought: Mark Few paid Ben Howland more than a few compliments yesterday, none greater than how cagey the UCLA basketball coach is at scheduling nonconference games. “Ben is a great coach, a funny guy, a hard worker and the greatest scheduler in the history of mankind,” said Few, whose Gonzaga team faces UCLA in an Oakland Regional semifinal tonight. “Thank God for (UCLA Athletic Director) Dan Guerrero, or else they would be playing Alabama A&T and four Division II schools each year.” Union Tribune

'General', if not contained, can inflict damage: A guy nicknamed "The Big General" who plays basketball for Gonzaga should be pretty easy to identify, right? A gimme, a lock, a throwaway question. But if it's Final Jeopardy and you've got the whole wad down on the scribble "Who is Adam Morrison?" you're bankrupt, bub ... sort of like UCLA could be if the Bruins don't come up the right answer themselves in tonight's wildly anticipated Oakland Regional semifinal. Inside Bay Area

Fans appreciate the way Morrison goes through life: Big-time college athletes develop fans and followers, but Adam Morrison’s groupies aren’t just delighted by the way the Gonzaga junior plays basketball. They also admire the way he lives his life as a diabetic.More than a dozen kids held up banners for Morrison at Gonzaga’s open practice Wednesday in preparation for tonight’s NCAA tournament regional semifinal game against UCLA. “Go, Adam, Diabetes Rocks,” one read. News Tribune

UCLA's Bozeman left from the days of Lavin: AS A highly-recruited high school All-American freshman at UCLA, Cedric Bozeman figured his future with the Bruins was promising and boundless after his team upset top-seeded Cincinnati in the 2002 NCAA tournament to advance to the Sweet 16 in his first year in Westwood. Marin Independent Journal



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