Preview & Prediction: By Raphielle Johnson
A return game in the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series matches a pair of ranked teams in #8 Texas (5-1) and #9 UCLA (4-1), both of whom enter the game with just one loss each. The Bruins have struggled at times due to that delicate mixture of youth and experience, and the loss of some key contributors inside from last season’s Final Four squad. Darren Collison leads the way at the point, and freshmen Jrue Holiday and Malcolm Lee are blessed with a great deal of talent. But Ben Howland’s team has had an issue with consistency this season, be it senior swingman Josh Shipp or the play of their four big men (Alfred Aboya, James Keefe, Nicola Dragovic and J’Mison Morgan).
UCLA is pretty much set on the perimeter with the options listed above and shooter Michael Roll also contributing, but they need better play from the guys up front if they’re to win in Austin. Gary Johnson, Connor Atchley and Dexter Pittman make up three parts of the best frontline that UCLA has seen to this point in the season, making it a must that the Bruins hold their own on the boards. The Bruins actually rank higher than the Longhorns in rebounding margin (22nd nationally to Texas’ 36th), but they average eight fewer rebounds per game. This means that whichever team can keep the game at its preferred tempo (Texas would like to run; UCLA wants the game to be played a half court at a time) would have a better chance to win the game.
Another concern for UCLA: the size of Texas point guard Justin Mason (6-2, 198) and the fact that guards with size can give Collison trouble when he’s trying to run the show. While it would be foolish to compare Mason to Derrick Rose, this will be a good test for the senior floor general in terms of taking on a player with a size advantage. Mason has played well at the point for the Longhorns, but it would be unfair to compare him to D.J. Augustin. Mason has done a good job of both distributing (4.7 apg) and taking care of (1.47 assist/TO ratio) the basketball so far, and he can also score some points when needed, but they’ve got other options for that.
The extra benefit in all of this: getting A.J. Abrams off the ball in a role where he’s far more comfortable. Another player that the Bruins will have to worry about is the versatile Damion James, a 6-7 small forward who can hit the glass with anyone, as his average of 9.8 rebounds per game can attest. The winner of this game will control the tempo, and even though the Bruins are capable of making some plays themselves I don’t think they’ve got enough right now to win in Austin. But this should be an outstanding basketball game.
Winner: Texas Margin: 1-4 pts.
- Bracketology: Selection Sunday Projection
- Bracketology: Saturday Night NCAA Tournament Projection
- Non-BCS Top 25: Creighton, Colorado St Rise
- College Basketball Top 50: Indiana Ends Regular Season #1
- Non-BCS Top 25: Valpo Replaces BYU
- College Basketball Top 50: Maryland and Iowa St Drop Out
- Non-BCS Top 25: Davidson In, Wyoming Out
- College Basketball Top 50: #2 Gonzaga Hits All-Time High
- Non-BCS Top 25: Air Force, Davidson Making Moves
- College Basketball Top 50: Another Week, Another #1
About Raphielle Johnson
College sports has always been a source of excitement for Raphielle Johnson, be it through watching, writing, or taking a shot in the dark and walking onto a college football team just to live the life (Arizona Football, 2001). Raphielle is the assistant editor, providing his own work in addition to helping out with the site operations. When not writing for CHN, you can usually find him in front of a television set watching one of many pay-per-view sports packages that he owns. He can be followed at twitter.com/raphiellej.
In a gym near you