March 28, 2006
UCLA is looking for its 12th national championship. Ben Howland has brought a physicality to the Bruins and it has shown in this year's NCAA Tournament.
Perhaps UCLA is a team of destiny. There was a hard-fought win over Alabama in the second round, then the miraculous comeback against Gonzaga in the Sweet 16. The Bruins were down nine points with less than four minutes to play, only to score the last 11 points to get the W!
UCLA has the ability of stopping stars. Look at the win over Memphis in the regional final, the job done against Rodney Carney and Shawne Williams.
The Bruins rely so heavily on the backcourt tandem of Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo, but the big surprise has been the play of Ryan Hollins in the middle. He has scored in double figures in each game so far. He must stay out of foul trouble against LSU and its tandem of Big Baby Davis and Tyrus Thomas.
Can UCLA's offense bounce back after struggling against Memphis? I really like what Farmar and Afflalo have done this season and they could perform well against the LSU Tigers' guards.
The toughness on the defensive side has made them the winner that they are. In 10 of their last 11 games, they have held the opposition to 60 points or less. UCLA wants to take you out of your offensive sets and wants opponents to have others shoot instead of their stars. They do a great job communicating with each other.
Defense is about a rhythm, not an individual situation. You have to play as a unit and they do it so, so well.
The Bruins put on a clinic against Memphis, holding a team that averages in the 80s to 45 points. In the day and age of the 3-point shot, that is amazing.
Can UCLA stop Davis, Thomas and Darrel Mitchell? We'll find out Saturday night in the second game of the Final Four doubleheader.
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.