Friday, March 24, 2006

UCLA vs. Memphis - NCAA Game Preview

By Bruin Basketball Report

Youth will be on display at the Oakland Regional Final game between the No.2 UCLA Bruins and No.1 Memphis Tigers with the winner advancing to the Final Four in Indianapolis.

UCLA plays primarily three sophomores, four freshmen, and two seniors; while Memphis does it with a rotation featuring four freshmen, three sophomores and only one senior.

UCLA and Memphis faced each other last November at the NIT Preseason Tip-Off Classic – it was only the Bruin’s fourth game of the regular season.

Memphis dominated the game and led by as much as 20 points before settling for an 88-80 victory. The Memphis game remains the only time this season an opponent has scored over 80 points against the Bruins.

Tiger’s freshman Shawne Williams made 5 of 7 from three-point distance on his way to a season-high 26 points to pace the Tigers. Memphis was 8 of 17 for 47% from beyond the arc.

The Bruins would have lost by a larger margin if it hadn’t been for the hot-shooting of Jordan Farmar who scored 23 points in the second-half.

But that was then; this is now – the Elite Eight.

Going into the Gonzaga game, UCLA had held their opponents to below 60 points in eight straight games.

On Saturday, the Bruin defense will be strongly challenged by Memphis’ high-powered offense. The Tigers averaged 81 points per game this season (8th in the nation).

Memphis, with a 33-3 overall record, played a tough non-conference season at the beginning of the season but has been barely tested over the last two months due to playing in a weak C-USA conference.

Memphis is stocked with long and athletic players, and they use it to their advantage by applying defensive pressure on the ball for the entire 94 feet of the court.

The Tigers are ranked 5th in the nation in field goal percentage defense allowing only 38.2%

They play an aggressive man-to-man defense in which they overplay the passing lanes to disrupt offenses and to create turnovers. The Tigers have six players who average over 1.0 steals per game, and rank 9th in the nation in team steals per game (9.8).

With Memphis’ pressure defense and stable of athletes, turnovers will be a key to this game. Although the Bruins have taken better care of the ball lately, they are still prone to committing unforced errors during a game.

Against Bradley on Thursday, Memphis’ athleticism was on display and they looked every bit like the No.1 seed of the region. Senior forward Rodney Carney scored 27 points on 7-12 shooting in the Tigers victory.

Carney (Sr, 6'7, 205), the C-USA Player of the Year, is an immense talent who can score in different ways. He averaged 17.5 points per game and shot nearly 40% from three-point distance. Carney has tremendous leaping ability and is a premier finisher around the basket.

UCLA senior forward Cedric Bozeman did a good defensive job on Gonzaga’s Adam Morrison, and his task against Carney will be just as tough and important to the Bruin's success.

Although Memphis has many offensive weapons, they tend to play off Carney’s offense, especially his awe-inspiring dunks.

“That's what my dunks do," Carney said. "That gives my team intensity, gets them going. That's my purpose. I want to dunk on 7-foot guys just to get the team going. Once I come out, the intensity will still be there."

Although Shawne Williams (Fr, 6'9, 225) practically single-handedly sunk UCLA with his three-point shooting display in the first meeting, he is not necessarily known as a three-point threat, not with a 31% three-pointer field goal average.

He has been streaky and inconsistent from the floor, in general, shooting only 42% while averaging 13.3 points per game.

Williams is long, very athletic and an excellent defender, averaging 1.4 blocks and 1.4 steals per game. He is second on the team in rebounding with 6.1 caroms during the season.

UCLA’s Luc Richard Mbah a Moute matched up with Williams in the first meeting and was torched by William’s outside shooting.

In that game Mbah a Moute never made the defensive adjustment to stop Williams’ jumper, but there is no doubt he will be aware of Williams’ ability to light it up from the outside if he gets hot in this game.

Joey Dorsey (So, 6'9, 265) was a dominant interior force in the first game grabbing 9 rebounds and blocking 3 shots. He is a wide-body and physical presence in the paint and averaged 7.0 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game during the season. He intimidated the Bruins inside and controlled the paint.

Senior Ryan Hollins has not backed down from the tough post play of the postseason so far, and UCLA will need to him to continue to provide a strong interior presence against Memphis.

As good as Memphis is in the frontcourt, they may be stronger in the backcourt.

In another tournament marquee point-guard match-up, UCLA’s Jordan Farmar will go head-to-head with Memphis’ Darius Washington Jr. (So, 6'2, 195).

Washington is a very physical player, and played strong defense against Farmar, many times forcing him out 35-feet away from the basket to initiate the offense.

However, Farmar was hampered in the first Memphis game by an ankle sprain he suffered days earlier against Temple, and was subsequently less effective – although he did finish the game with an offensive rampage.

Farmar needs to take care of the ball against Washington and find a way to get to the basket. UCLA is much more effective when Farmar is aggressive on offense.

Freshman Darren Collison’s may play a very important role against Memphis. The Tigers really don’t have anyone on their roster that can match Collison’s quickness.

The Tigers lack of speed was evident against Bradley, when the Braves began to rally with a smaller and quicker line-up.

Antonio Anderson (Fr, 6'6, 190), another long and athletic Tiger player, is proficient from three-point distance (37%) and a good defender. His defense against Afflalo helped limit him to only 14 points in the first contest.

Memphis plays three primary players off the bench in close games.

Robert Dozier (Fr, 6'9, 205) is an athletic big man off the bench who averages 5.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in just 18 minutes of play.

Forward Chris Douglas-Roberts (Fr, 6'6, 180) is a spark off the bench with his scoring and defense. He averages 8.4 points on 52% shooting, mostly from mid-range and around the basket.

Sophomore Guard Andre Allen (So, 5'10, 205) backs up Washington, and like him, provides physical play at the point despite his smaller size.

As with most every UCLA game, how Farmar initiates the offense at the game’s outset will determine how the Bruins start the game.

When Farmar begins the game executing the offense and attacking the opponent’s defense, the Bruins usually follow suit with energy and intenstiy, but when he is passive and settles for long-range jumpers the team usually starts off slowly.



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