Thursday, March 29, 2007

Sports: National Semifinals - Florida vs. UCLA

The newspaper in LA is running an article or three each day in the run up to the Final Four. Fans are hoping for a win but the realists know that Florida is the favorite.

Las Vegas says Florida is the favorite by 3 points. BTW, they have GTown favored by 1 over the Buckeyes.

Last year, the Bruins starting line-up: Farmar, Afflalo, Bozeman, Mbah a Moute and Hollins. The Bruin bench was: Collison, Abboya, Mata and Roll.

This year, Collison has taken over the point for Farmar. Collison gives the Bruins more speed on both offense and defense. He will have a huge assignment covering Florida's point guard Green. Collison will need to force a few turnovers and disrupt the timing of the Florida offense in order for the Bruins to have a chance. If we see the Gators flying around in a dunkfest, we are looking at another blowout so getting back on defense will be a key. When in the half-court, Collison will need to pressure Green so the passes into the Florida bigs are a little bit off allowing UCLA's double teams to poke it away, steal it or leave the frontline with a less ideal shot causing a miss.

Afflalo is a year better and stronger and hopefully he will have a better game than 3 for 10 shooting he had last year in the game against the Gators. He was hitting so many shots against Kansas so hopefully his shooting touch is back and that it will carry over to this game!

Bozman was a senior and his spot is taken by Shipp. Shipp gives more offense but less defense. However, in recent games, Shipp seems to have stepped it up a notch. Hopefully, the extra offense that Shipp gives will give Collison and Afflalo some more room to work in the half-court sets.

Mbah a Moute has continued to develop. A bit bigger and stronger than last year when he was completely overwhelmed by Florida's frontline. We need him to play tough defense and grab those rebounds on defense and sneaking a few offensive rebounds.

Mata has been a valuable presence in the middle. Not as tall as Hollins but bulkier, he isn't afraid of mixing it up underneath. Horford and Noah are 1st round NBA picks and Mata isn't. But Mata with his grit might disrupt the Gator inside game. Kansas had it share of inside opportunities but they seemed to rush their shots just a tiny bit. Call it the Mata-effect!

UCLA's bench is a bit better than last year. Westbrook doesn't play as many minutes as Collison did as back-up point but Westbrook is key to keeping Collison fresh for the final push in the 2nd half and he has shown some ability to score. Roll brings some three-point shooting off the bench and his minutes to give Afflalo and Shipp a break will be important. He has gotten stronger and is more confident putting up the shot from last year. Abboya is bigger and stronger than last year. He isn't as tall as Florida's bigs and not much on offense but he has a nose for the ball on rebounds. A big part of UCLA's defense includes letting the other team know you are there! Abboya has to be careful if the refs have a fast whistle! But part of what Abboya does is put that body on the other team's star big guy so they get frustrated. If the pace of the game gets a little fast or there is foul trouble, we will see Wright and Keefe.

If any other Bruins wind up playing, it means the game is a blow out and fans in Westwood are heading for heartbreak hotel.

IN any case, Go Bruins!

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