March 24, 2007
Ben Howland has brought a defensive mentality to UCLA that has led to winning. Howland is taking the Bruins to its second straight Final Four; the last time UCLA made consecutive trips there was 1975 and '76 (John Wooden's final championship, followed by Gene Bartow's first season in Westwood).
Getting to the Final Four is one thing -- there is one standard at UCLA -- winning championships. Bruin fans simply want to add banners to the rafters.
This Bruins team does such a great job on the defensive end. They can stop people on the perimeter and the interior defense is outstanding too. Bill Self's team could not convert on opportunities, while UCLA hit big shots with the shot clock running down. At 55-50, Darren Collison hit a big trifecta as the shot clock was expiring. Kansas never recovered after that.
Arron Afflalo and Collison are an exceptional backcourt pair, both on offense and defense. They are so efficient and they put pressure on opponents trying to work on the perimeter. Collison has elevated his game as Jordan Farmar's replacement in the starting lineup. He also is a clutch free throw shooter, missing just once so far in this tournament.
Lorenzo Mata is underrated inside and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is a physical presence. How efficient was UCLA against Kansas? The Jayhawks had a streak of holding opponents below 50 percent in 43 straight games. The Bruins shot 53.3 percent.
Howland's team has held all four NCAA tournament opponents to 55
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in December 1979. Send him a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.