Monday, April 03, 2006

UCLA vs. Florida: Game Day Stories

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

UCLA makes its legends proud: Already in this Bruins' title run, one of the legends has made a difference. "It's crazy, we were playing and losing to Gonzaga, taking the ball out, and up on the big screen they show Bill Walton,'' forward Ryan Hollins said. "And he was maaad."Hollins crossed his arms and mimicked Walton's pained expression. "That just personally hit me like, 'We've got to win this game,' " Hollins said. " 'We've got to step this up regardless. They wouldn't settle for less, and we can't settle for less.' " Indy Star

How sports books keep their sanity during March Madness: Florida is favored by 1 to 1 1/2 points in Las Vegas in today's title game, with Roberts seeing strong two-way action across the board, including straight bets, parlays and the total of 127 1/2 points. That's in marked contrast to the semifinal card Saturday, when bookmakers were rooting hard for UCLA against LSU. The Bruins won outright as a small underdog after bettors pounded LSU at the windows. Florida handily covered the point spread against George Mason in Saturday's other game. "I'd say 65 to 70 percent of the tickets were on both SEC teams," Roberts said. "If UCLA doesn't win, the books do very poorly." Las Vegas Sun

Noah, Farmar double switch: Imagine Joakim Noah playing for Ben Howland and Jordan Farmar for Billy Donovan. Had it happened a couple of years ago, tonight's national championship game would have had a drastically different look. Farmar, a Los Angeles native, nearly committed to Florida before Howland took over at UCLA. After joining the Bruins, Howland made Farmar one of his top priorities, quickly contacting him to change his mind — and perhaps the Bruins' destiny. Inside Bay Area

Five Reasons Florida will win: Nine months later, the basketball Gators stand one game away from officially sealing my idiocy status, and while the jury's still out on Urban Meyer's football counterparts, Billy Donovan's boys are the real deal. Here are five reasons why they'll cut down the nets tonight Sports Illustrated

Five Reasons UCLA will win: In a subdued UCLA locker room after the Bruins 59-45 thrashing of LSU on Saturday, there was a lot of talk about UCLA's style of play. The team isn't pretty to watch, to be sure, but given the transformation coach Ben Howland has engineered in just three years, the Bruins aren't about to apologize for it. Sports Illustrated

20 reasons why Florida will beat UCLA: For a guy who just stumbled out of spring training and discovered the college basketball season three weeks ago, Gene Wojciechowski sure thinks he knows some things. I'm here to set him straight -- and tell him why Florida will beat the powder-blue pants off UCLA Monday night: ESPN/Forde

Possible tornado rocks downtown Indianapolis: A possible tornado or series of twisters that touched down as many as eight times caused widespread property damage and at least nine injuries across central and southern Indiana, emergency officials said today. Washington Times-Herald

Underdog Image OK By UCLA: Something new is brewin' at UCLA: They guard. Oh, boy, does UCLA guard. It's the Ben Howland way.''They are very, very disciplined with the way they play defense," says Florida coach Billy Donovan. ''They help each other out extremely well." Boston Globe

Howland-led Bruins reviving UCLA tradition ahead of schedule: The Tradition, all 7 feet, 3 inches of him, was walking out of the RCA Dome Saturday night, expressing his admiration for the UCLA Bruins. "They play 40 minutes," Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said. "Everybody plays hard. That's the mark of a great team." A few feet away was another splash of The Tradition. The Seattle Times

UCLA wakes up the echoes of a star-studded past: When the coach at UCLA has a backyard barbecue, it's quite an affair.Hey, there's Bill Walton. Is that John Wooden? Good to see ya, Marques Johnson. "I really wanted to do this because I want our players to get the tradition and the history,'' said Ben Howland, the Bruins' third-year coach. "They hear about it. They see it. They read about it. But the best way to feel it is to know the players and the coach himself.'' Mercury News

UCLA will rely on stingy defense to deny Florida: There hasn't been a defense like this in Los Angeles since L.A. Law was on the air and O.J. Simpson was on trial. UCLA coach Ben Howland, who made a reputation with tough, defensive-minded teams at Pittsburgh, preaches it. Sunday morning, his players said they were believers in his system, singing its praises as they prepare to face Florida tonight in the NCAA Tournament championship game at the RCA Dome. Houston Chronicle

It's the Best of Times For UCLA's Bozeman: When UCLA's Cedric Bozeman watched last year's national championship game, he took particular note of one player: North Carolina's Jawad Williams, a longtime acquaintance from high school summer camps. Washington Post

Win or lose, UCLA back among nation’s elite: Jim Harrick wasn’t what you would call basketball royalty. With his dumpy frame and molasses drawl, he came across more like a ticket scalper at a NASCAR event. When it was announced in 1988 that he would replace Walt Hazzard and become UCLA’s basketball coach, many alumni and fans reacted as if the school had been bought out by USC in a hostile takeover. MSNBC

UCLA, Florida ready for unlikely title game: OK, raise your hands if, back in November, you thought that, come April 3, we would be watching the 2006 national championship game pitting Duke and Connecticut in the RCA Dome. Yep. Me, too. OK. The rest of you raise your hands if, 4 1/2 months ago, you thought we might be watching UCLA and Florida hooking up on the first Monday night in April? I thought so. Fox Sports

Florida will outrun UCLA for title: Ben Howland does not like the way his renovation at UCLA is being portrayed. The press wanted to talk about the Bruins’ wicked defense on Sunday. Howland tried to steer the conversation toward pleasant things recruits like to hear. He brought up the NBA and how many skill guys he has on his roster. We brought up defense and blue collar stuff. MSNBC

This UCLA takes its own path to final: John Wooden's teams scored 100 points or more 88 times. That could be the UCLA you know - the hook shots of Lew Alcindor (before he became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), the bank shots of Bill Walton, the silky-smooth jump shots of Keith Wilkes (later Jamaal Wilkes), the long left-handed ones of Gail Goodrich, the swoops to the hoop of Marques Johnson. Or maybe that's too old school for you. The Mercury News

Threes few, far between vs. UCLA: If Florida is to get its first national title tonight, the Gators probably will have to do something about the statistic that stands out most on a stat sheet full of impressive defensive numbers posted by UCLA in the tournament.Bruins defenders are holding three-point shooters to a 17.5% conversion rate in the postseason. UCLA foes are 11-for-63 in five tournament games, missing 52 times. USA Today

UCLA, Florida for supremacy: UCLA had Bill Walton, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and all those championship banners. Florida had Vernon Maxwell and Norm Sloan. Different programs on opposite coasts with divergent histories play for the national championship tonight, though the game is more than that. Worcester Telegram

Defense is thread that binds UCLA and Florida: Florida coach Billy Donovan probably was right: If you hit the restart button on this NCAA tournament, just played the same first-round games again and went from there, you'd end up with four different schools at the Final Four. But the right schools are playing tonight at the RCA Dome for the national title. All the cliches are true: Florida and UCLA are loaded with top-level athletes who bought into a system, who understand the defensive principles that guide them, who got better at just the right time Philadelphia Inquirer

Sharpshooter could get Gators over the Hump: Don't let the aw-shucks attitude and choirboy looks fool you. Lee Humphrey is an assassin. His weapon of choice? A deadly three-point shot that not only is dead-eye accurate, but usually delivered at the perfect time for his Florida Gators (32-6), who will be seeking their first national championship tonight when they face UCLA (32-6) at the RCA Dome.Humphrey doesn't have the lineage. Philadelphia Daily News

NCAA National Championship - Bruin defense: From the city that raised "Showtime" to a basketball art form, UCLA is taking a markedly different route to success. The Bruins have employed ferocious defense to move into tonight's national championship game against Florida. In the process, UCLA has changed the image of the nation's most tradition-steeped college program from one of glitz and glamour to a trapping, hustling bunch that relies as much on skinned knees and intensity as ability. San Antonio Express-News

‘Cameroon Crazies’ wild for UCLA duo: Soccer is on the back burner in Cameroon after the national team, the Indomitable Lions, failed to reach the World Cup finals for the first time in five tries. Kansas City Star

Florida hopes to defy 'soft' image against UCLA: Florida has a high-scoring offense, plays an up-tempo game and possesses plenty of shooters. So critics contend that while the Gators can shoot, run and score, they're not tough enough to win a national title. Don't try telling that to Florida's players. KRON-4

Scouting Report: Florida vs. UCLA: INDIVIDUAL MATCHUPS (UCLA listed first) Kansas City Star

Florida's Noah has UCLA ties, thanks to Ashe: Noah traced his family's athletic success back to UCLA grad and tennis legend Arthur Ashe. When Noah's father, Yannick Noah, was a 12-year-old tennis prodigy in Africa, Ashe discovered him during an African tour in 1971. Ashe called his agent, and soon Yannick was shipped off to a boarding school in Nice, France, where he paved the way for his professional career. Baltimore Sun

Coaching Right Move For Donovan: Florida coach Billy Donovan is attempting to become the third to play in a Final Four, then coach a national championship team.Bob Knight was on a national championship team at Ohio State, then coached Indiana to three titles. Dean Smith won as a player and a coach at North Carolina. Hartford Courant

Defense could make for ugly title game: There is ugly, coyote ugly and butt ugly. Tonight's national championship basketball game between UCLA and Florida could be the latter.
Or worse.What? You expect attractive basketball on a Final Four stage? Fluid motion, accurate shooting and scores to match the median age at granny's retirement village? After all, 12 of the last 13 national champions scored at least 75 points in the title game. Good luck tonight. Akron Beacon Journal



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