Saturday, April 1, 2006

UCLA vs. LSU Preview

Don't forget to check out Parts One, Two, and Three of the Final Four Preview.

Athleticism and explosiveness on the offensive end vs. stout half-court defense. The best frontcourt in the country vs. the best backcourt in the country. Can you get a game that has more of a contrast in styles than this one? Moreover, this contest has enough stars to whet your palette. Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo of UCLA are super guards, while Tyrus Thomas and Glen Davis of LSU are sure-fire Top 20 picks in the NBA Draft. It should be an interesting game.

LSU has been one of the most talked-about teams in the NCAA Tournament this March--even before reaching the national semifinals. Like others in the Final Four, the Tigers have been tested each game in the Big Dance. They opened with a quick Iona team who went into halftime leading LSU. However, the Tigers came out in the second half and dominated the Gaels. In the second round, Darrell Mitchell hit a three in the final seconds to top Texas A&M. The biggest win in recent years for the LSU program, though, came in the Sweet Sixteen. The Tigers knocked off #1 overall seed Duke in a game that will be looked upon as one of the better wins this season for any SEC team. In the Elite Eight, LSU used their athleticism and versatility in the frontcourt to outplay Texas' beefy frontline. Clutch shots in overtime and down the stretch gave them the victory.

UCLA came into their region as the most popular Final Four pick (along with Kansas), and has obviously not disappointed those who chose the Bruins. They opened the Tournament with an easy win over Belmont, followed by a very competitive win against Alabama. However, against the Tide, they seemed like they were in control the entire contest. In the Sweet Sixteen, UCLA made the type of comeback that can propel a team to a National Championship. After being down by 19 at one point, the Bruins came all the way back to take the lead on Luc Richard Mbah a Mboute's lay-up in the waning seconds. Their Elite Eight game against Memphis was one of the ugliest games of the Tournament, but the Bruins played their game and forced the Tigers into an awful shooting night. Don't think that UCLA is just happy to be here, though--they fully expect to win the title and continue the tradition of UCLA basketball.

LSU won the SEC title by two games, and have been one of the most difficult teams to match-up with in the country due to their versatility and athleticism. Even though they are young and inexperienced, the Tigers have the talent to win the title. They are led by one of the best frontcourts in the country. Glen Davis is a beast down low who is tough to guard in the paint; Tyrus Thomas is an athletic freak who can rebound and block shots with the best of them; and Tasmin Mitchell is a match-up problem who can score inside and outside. Darrell Mitchell is one of the most underrated guards in the country, but he can do nearly everything on the court. Garrett Temple played outstanding defense on J.J. Redick and has improved his all-around game as the season wore on. Darnell Lazare and Magnum Rolle are two more athletic frontcourt players that pose match-up problems for the opposition. All the athleticism and talent that the Tigers have wore Duke down and also enabled LSU to take down Texas' experience and size.

UCLA has been one of the top 15 teams in the country the whole year, and are playing excellent basketball lately, having won 16 of their past 18 games. They are one of the most efficient teams in the nation shooting the ball and also have one of the better scoring defenses in the country. Aaron Afflalo and Jordan Farmar form one of the best backcourts in the country. Afflalo is an excellent defender and might be even more dangerous on offense, while Farmar is an outstanding passer at the point. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute has been the best freshman in the conference, and is a very good rebounder. Darren Collison is a developing scorer at the guard position, and Cedric Bozeman is a versatile wing who can do many things. Inside, Ryan Hollins leads the way but Alfred Aboya also contributes. Neither is a big-time producer in either scoring and rebounding, but they provide a big body and some solid defense.

The differences in the two teams is what will make this game very intriguing. UCLA has an outstanding backcourt, while LSU has an unbelievable frontcourt. UCLA likes to lockdown defensively in the half-court and force teams to take bad shots, while LSU loves to crash the offensive glass and get in the paint. The key to this game is going to be which team demonstrates more balance throughout the contest. For UCLA, Cedric Bozeman and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute are going to need to play one of their best games of the season in order to match Tasmin Mitchell and Tyrus Thomas. Mbah a Moute could struggle to deal with Thomas' athleticism, while Bozeman can't allow Mitchell to get his offensive game going. Inside, the lanky Ryan Hollins is going to have to use his length and athleticism to force Glen Davis into bad shots. Davis is a beast down low and could dominate Hollins. For LSU, they are going to have to hit their outside shots. Darrell Mitchell has struggled somewhat from behind the arc in the NCAA Tournament, but he is going to need to knock down a couple of threes. It wouldn't hurt to see Garrett Temple make a couple of baskets, either. Defensively, Temple is going to have to slow down Arron Afflalo. He shut down J.J. Redick but Afflalo is a little better at creating his own shot than Redick is. Moreover, Mitchell can't allow Jordan Farmar to beat him off the dribble and penetrate for easy baskets. If they play solid defense, it will give the Tigers a better chance of winning. In the end, LSU's inside-outside balance and their edge in athleticism up front is going to be the difference. UCLA's quest for a title ends, while LSU's lives for another day.

Prediction: LSU 67, UCLA 62


  1. You've juxtaposed the score! Bruins win!

  2. Hope you have a back up job Jeff, you were not even close!

  3. Jeff, you could'nt pick your nose, after the LSU game you can now go for the trifecta!