Aside from being on primetime television, this
game has a lot to offer. UCLA (2-0) is the heavy favorite, but this
Michigan (2-0) team is much better than last year. The Bruins may be
susceptible to an upset after that close call against Miami of Ohio. They
bring a lineup dotted with freshmen to the table. Will inexperience play a
factor in the young Bruins' first real test?
UCLA features one of the best point guards in the nation in Darren Collison.
Collison was the steady hand that guided the Bruins to victory against
Miami, and UCLA will need him against a tougher opponent. He has only taken
3 shots beyond the arc this season, but look for that to change against the
Wolverines. Wingman Josh Shipp, on the other hand, has launched 10 3 balls,
converting only 2 of them. He has been a very good rebounder, though, and
continues to find many ways to score. Alfred Aboya provides defense &
toughness, and that's about it. He is only averaging 5 points a game, but
his inside presence is game-changing. He's not dominant, but he gets the job
done. Tournament sensation James Keefe has been largely disappointing this
season, as I was expecting big things from him. He's shooting less than 35%
from the field and has scored only 10 points in two games. He will need to
have a bigger impact against Michigan. Michael Roll is a very good
contributor off the bench. A consistent 3-point shooter, Roll be asked to
knock down a few Thursday night. On to the freshman. Jrue Holliday leads the
bunch with 8 points a game, but the MVP of UCLA's freshman has been Malcolm
Lee. He has 7 points a game to go along with 4 rebounds and 1.5 assists. A
solid start to the season for Lee. J'Mison Morgan and Drew Gooden have also
contributed off the bench.
The Wolverines have looked sharp through their first two games. Manny Harris
might be the best player in the Big Ten this year. He is averaging 28 points
a game, not to mention 8.5 rebounds and 5 assists. A key to this game may be
how well Josh Shipp can contain Harris, as no one has been able to so far.
DeShawn Sims mans the paint for Michigan. While not tremendously big, Sims
moves well in the paint and uses his body effectively. He already has a
double double this year. The rest of the Wolverines roster is chock-full of
role players who know their job. Zack Gibson does a little bit of everything
for Michigan. David Merritt should be a much more integral part of the
offense this year after only taking 26 shots all of last season.
This Michigan squad will not go away easily. The key for them will be to
contain Collison. He has been the only Bruin so far that has played
consistently well for long stretches. If the Wolverines contain him, they
have a chance at a major upset. Make the freshmen step up and prove that
they can carry their squad to victory. On the opposing side, if Josh Shipp
can hold Manny Harris to near 15 points and the tandem of Aboya and Keefe
contain DeShawn Sims in the post, UCLA could win big.
My Pick: UCLA Margin: 5-10