Friday, January 13, 2006
Pac-10 honors on the line at Pauley
By Jay Bilas Special to ESPN.com
No. 13 Washington at No. 12 UCLA
Saturday, 4 ET
Brandon Roy entered the USC game averaging 32 points and shooting 85 percent from 3-point range in league play. Against the Trojans, Roy appeared near human with "only" 23 points (on 8 of 11 shooting), 12 rebounds and four assists. While Arizona's Hassan Adams has rightfully been hyped as the Pac-10's best player, Roy is the most versatile and skilled. To beat Washington, you have to handle Roy first.
But Washington has a lot of weapons on the offensive end. Bobby Jones is an outstanding defender and versatile player, Jamaal Williams is a good interior scorer who may be undersized but can score over bigger players, and Justin Dentmon is a speedy freshman point guard who can handle and pass. Freshman Jon Brockman shares time with Mike Jensen, and has put up four double-doubles on the season. Brockman is a hard worker who throws his body around and brings a level of toughness to the game.
Washington shot out to a big lead against USC and held strong for the remainder of the game. Things will not be as easy at UCLA. The key to the Huskies is pace. Washington wants to play fast, and get the ball up court and score quickly before you can set your defense. The Huskies rebound well, especially on the offensive end, and usually take care of the ball. Against USC, Washington threw the ball all over the place, committing 28 turnovers, but was never really threatened. UCLA will not allow Washington the luxury of so many mistakes.
UCLA is a very good team that is doing tough things and playing together. The loss of Josh Shipp hurts, in large measure because it takes away a scoring threat who can also defend, but his absence also requires other players to play extended minutes guarding better players.
Jordan Farmar is the team's leader and sits atop of the Pac-10 assist list. He runs the team effectively and is a great leader with the ball in his hands. However, UCLA's best player is Arron Afflalo, who leads the team in scoring with 19 points per game on 53 percent shooting. Afflalo is a strong athlete who can rise up and shoot over defenders. He is learning to score against a variety of defensive schemes designed to stop him and he is incredibly competitive.
UCLA's defense is much improved under Ben Howland. The Bruins bump cutters, stand you up and really do a good job of taking away penetration. Rebounding is not a strength, but the Bruins go to the glass, especially on the defensive end. The Bruins' best rebounder, and one of the best rebounders in the Pac-10, is freshman Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, a prince from Cameroon who pulls down close to nine boards per game, including three on the offensive glass. He has a great feel for the game.
Key matchup: Roy and Afflalo. Both are leading their teams in scoring and both can put up big numbers. If either player does not perform as well as they are capable, their team will take a hit.
Key stats: Offensive rebounds and fast-break points. If UCLA allows Washington to get out and run, it will be Advantage: Huskies. The Bruins need to make the Huskies play against their halfcourt defense and test Washington's patience. Second shots will be important. Washington is the best offensive rebounding team in the Pac-10, and UCLA has to limit second opportunities.
X factors: Brockman and Mbah a Moute. Brockman is the most physical player on Washington's roster and can operate in the paint body-on-body. Mbah a Moute is an energetic player who goes after every loose ball, especially on the glass.
What to watch for: Watch to see who guards Williams, and whether UCLA can match up with him and still guard the Huskies' other weapons. Williams could wind up being the difference. Watch also to see how UCLA defends. The Bruins bend but do not break on the defensive end. They will bump every cut and try to jam up Washington's offensive sets and take away flow. Washington wants a track meet and UCLA wants a football game.
Jay Bilas, a college basketball analyst for ESPN, is a regular contributor to Insider.