Can Budinger and Bayless knock off UCLA in Pac-10 showdown?

Updated: February 1, 2008

Joe Murphy/Getty Images

Chase Budinger is an offensive star. But will he need help against UCLA?

Must-See Game

Arizona at No. 5 UCLA, Saturday, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN,
Outlook: Arizona played four games without hotshot freshman guard Jerryd Bayless, and the Wildcats struggled to score without him. With Bayless back at full speed, Kevin O'Neill has another big-time threat to balance super sophomore Chase Budinger. Arizona runs a lot of staggers and ballscreens to free up Budinger and Bayless for jump shots, and both move well without the ball to hunt for their shots. Budinger is an excellent jump-shooter who absolutely drills it when he gets his feet set for a catch-and-shoot opportunity. He can put it down to drive and pull up, but Budinger is not yet proficient at attacking the rim to score or get fouled. Bayless has great range, a really quick first step and he is an excellent jump-shooter.

Join Rece Davis, Jay Bilas, Hubert Davis and Digger Phelps in Los Angeles on Saturday as they break down the day in college basketball. (ESPN, 11 a.m. & 8 p.m. ET)

Arizona has improved defensively, but it still allows opponents to shoot too high of a percentage from the floor. The Wildcats have yet to consistently bear down as a unit and take away the tendencies of opposing offenses.

UCLA is the better defensive team, the better rebounding team and the more efficient offensive team. The Bruins run a lot of different set plays to free up shooters. They also do are committed to getting the ball inside to Kevin Love and playing off him. Love does a nice job of using his body to get position and angles in the post, and he can also step away and hit a perimeter jumper to keep his defender guessing. With Love, Lorenzo Mata-Real, Alfred Aboya and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, UCLA has a front line that can run the floor, impact the offensive glass and defend effectively in the post.

The key for the Bruin defense is the play of guards Darren Collison, Josh Shipp and Russell Westbrook. Collison is now healthy and playing like the best point guard in the country. Shipp is the Bruins' best perimeter shooter, and Westbrook adds incredible athleticism, open-court ability and ball pressure. With Collison and Westbrook, few teams can match the pressure UCLA's guards can put on the ball at the point of attack. UCLA also does a terrific job of guarding and double-teaming the post, but Arizona sophomore forward Jordan Hill may not require double-teams and could be defended straight up inside.

Key Matchup: Collison against Bayless. I believe Collison to be the best point guard in the country, and Bayless is one of the best combo guards in the country despite being a freshman. There are only a handful of guards who are as fast as Collison end to end, and his defense is stellar. Bayless spent Thursday night guarding USC's O.J. Mayo (who shot 9-for-23), which definitely affected his offensive game. For Arizona to win at Pauley Pavilion, the Wildcats will need big scoring games from Budinger and Bayless. And, Arizona cannot afford careless errors against UCLA, or the Bruins will cut them up.

Key Stats: Rebounding and free throws. UCLA is the more physical team and more proficient at getting to the glass and the line. Arizona has improved on the defensive end, but the Cats are not as sound as the Bruins; Arizona has to have one of its best defensive games to win Saturday. UCLA has bigger and better athletes up front, so Hill will have to take up any slack on the glass.

Subtlety to Watch For: Check out how Love gets position in the post and how he uses his body to pin or seal a defender. Love does his work early, and because of that, he is able to execute simple moves to finish plays. He is like the speedy center fielder who positions himself correctly so he can make the tough plays look easy. Also, watch how Love passes the ball. He can really snap off a pass, especially an outlet pass, and have it right where it is supposed to be for his teammate to make a play.

X Factors: Jawann McClellan and Westbrook. Westbrook is one of the top assist men in the Pac-10 and the country, and he makes momentum plays on the offensive and defensive ends. Westbrook is great in the open court, and he can guard multiple positions with his length and determination. McClellan has been slowed by injuries over the course of his career, but he has slimmed down this season. McClellan had 24 points and eight big rebounds against USC, and as he done all season, he made some really hard-hitting plays to come up with possession of the ball Thursday night. Budinger's 29 points were a significant reason Arizona beat USC, but McClellan's plays were just as important.

Who Wins: Arizona won an important game at USC, and a sweep of Los Angeles would be an unbelievable accomplishment for this team. But, UCLA is the better, deeper and stronger team. The Bruins should win this one at home.

Key Player

D.J. Augustin, Texas
D.J. Augustin

AP Photo/Deborah Cannon

It's pretty simple for Texas. When D.J. Augustin struggles, the Longhorns struggle.

The Longhorns ought to send Kansas a thank-you note. Ordinarily Texas' 80-63 loss to Texas A&M would have been big news. However, because it happened on the same night that Kansas State ended The Streak (24 straight losses to KU in Manhattan) and the Jayhawks' unbeaten season, Texas' loss was an afterthought.

But the Longhorns' dusting is significant, dropping Texas to 3-2 in what is quickly becoming a very tough Big 12 Conference race. With a surprising Baylor squad (4-1 Big 12, 16-3 overall) on tap for Saturday (1:45 p.m. ET, ESPN Full Court), there's not much more room for error.

The fact that D.J. Augustin is the secret to the Longhorns' success is hardly news. The electric guard averages 20.4 points and nearly six assists per game. But when Augustin struggles, Texas doesn't win. Against A&M, he shot just 6-for-18 from the floor. More telling is that during a first half in which the Longhorns dug themselves an early 31-10 hole, Augustin missed his first seven shots and went 2-for-10 in the opening 20 minutes.

In the Longhorns' four losses this season, the sophomore is just 23-of-62 (37.1 percent).

If Texas loses to Baylor, the feel-good team of the season, the Longhorns won't be lucky enough to hide in the news shadows again.



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Key games this weekend

Pittsburgh at Connecticut, Saturday, 1 p.m. ET
The Huskies used balanced scoring and rock-solid defense to shock Indiana in Bloomington without starting guard Jerome Dyson and their leading scorer off the bench, Doug Wiggins. After beating Louisville for their second consecutive short-handed win, the Huskies are playing their best ball of the season. Connecticut has one of the most explosive groups of athletes -- led by guard A.J. Price and forward Stanley Robinson. Craig Austrie stepped up in the absence of Dyson and Wiggins and scored 15 points against Indiana. Center Hasheem Thabeet has steadily improved his offense to go along with his shot-blocking ability and overall defensive presence in the lane. Jeff Adrien is a dependable power forward who competes and provides consistent production in the lane as a scorer and rebounder. Despite losing to Rutgers at home this past Saturday, the Panthers beat Villanova on Wednesday. Pitt is short-handed with Levance Fields still out with a foot injury, but coach Jamie Dixon has shown he can rally the troops. The Iron Five of Gilbert Brown, Sam Young, DeJuan Blair, Keith Benjamin and Ronald Ramon should not be taken lightly, even on the road against a confident Connecticut team.

Baylor at Texas, Saturday, 1:45 p.m. ET, ESPN Full Court
After beating A&M in five overtimes on the road, the Bears had a major hangover against Oklahoma on Saturday, going down 77-71 in Waco. Baylor will now have to head to Austin and try to contain D.J. Augustin and A.J. Abrams, who broke out of a slight shooting slump going 6-for-12 and scoring 17 points in a win against Texas Tech. The Horns, who lost to Texas A&M on Wednesday, will face a rested Bears team that didn't have a midweek game. Curtis Jerrells, Kevin Rogers and Aaron Bruce should be back fully charged and ready to make a run at the perimeter-oriented Longhorns.

Stanford at Washington State, Saturday, 3 p.m. ET
The second-place Cardinal has won four Pac-10 games in a row, with the last two of those wins coming on the road. Leading scorer and rebounder Brook Lopez is fresh off a career-high 31 points and 13 rebounds in the win at Washington on Thursday. Twin brother Robin Lopez is a force on the offensive glass, and forward Lawrence Hill is active on the glass as well. With Hill and sharpshooter Anthony Goods able to step out on the perimeter, Stanford can score inside and out. Meanwhile, Washington State is coming off its first home loss -- to Cal on Thursday -- of the season. To avoid another home loss, leading scorer Derrick Low can't go 0-for-9 from behind the arc like he did against Cal. Washington State's interior defense of Aron Baynes and Robbie Cowgill will be tested trying to defend the Lopez twins. Wazzu's Kyle Weaver must keep Goods in check. This game will feature two excellent defensive teams with size and shooters, but the Cougars' sense of urgency should be at a season-high after Thursday night.

Oklahoma at Texas A&M, Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN Full Court
Blake Griffin was a pleasant surprise against Baylor, returning early from a sprained MCL in his left knee to register a double-double (17 points and 14 rebounds) and lead the Sooners to a big road win. OU is in position to win its fourth Big 12 game in a row after beating Oklahoma State on Monday. A much improved Longar Longar and sophomore jump-shooter Tony Crocker will have to provide quality minutes for OU to have success. For the Aggies, Josh Carter will have to do the lion's share of the scoring, while Joseph Jones and DeAndre Jordan will keep tabs on Big Blake as A&M attempts to stay alive in the conference race.

Tennessee at Mississippi State, Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN Full Court
Tennessee responded from the loss to Kentucky by blitzing Georgia. With a win at Alabama on Tuesday, the Vols must deal with the scoring and playmaking ability of swingman Jamont Gordon, the inside presence of Charles Rhodes and the consistent shot-blocking of Jarvis Varnado. Vols coach Bruce Pearl says the Vols go as guard JaJuan Smith goes, and Smith and the SEC's career 3-point leader, Chris Lofton, will have to be going full throttle along to knock off the Bulldogs. After Mississippi State made a huge statement by beating in-state rival Ole Miss by 20 on Saturday, the Bulldogs lost by 20 to Arkansas on Wednesday to suffer their first SEC defeat. Saturday's matchup includes two midseason Wooden Award candidates, Gordon and Lofton, and is overflowing with skill and athletic ability.

Arizona State at USC, Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET
The Trojans's four-game winning streak was snapped by Arizona on Thursday, but USC is playing much better now than earlier in the season. Daniel Hackett, O.J. Mayo and Dwight Lewis combined for 75 points in this past Saturday's overtime win at Oregon. Meanwhile, the Sun Devils have struggled of late losing four in a row, including a 33-point blowout at UCLA on Thursday. Arizona State freshman James Harden has been sensational all season long, and Jeff Pendergraph has helped with the scoring and controlled the glass for coach Herb Sendek. Washington State had success double-teaming Pendergraph, and USC might try to limit the Sun Devils' only post threat from getting into his offensive comfort zone, as well. Ty Abbott and Jerren Shipp must step up and make plays to help get ASU back on track.

North Carolina at Florida State, Sunday, 2 p.m. ET
The Tar Heels' pressure man-to-man defense will be in for a major test; the Seminoles' perimeter players will try to break them down off the dribble. Toney Douglas, Isaiah Swann and Jason Rich are all triple-threats on offense.

When teams play North Carolina, they know what's coming: pressure half-court man defense, run-and-jump trapping, rebounding and quick attacking in transition and pounding the ball inside to an All-American (Tyler Hansbrough). The problem is stopping it. The perimeter play in this game will be a treat to watch; Carolina will counter Florida State's trio with Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green. A win for Carolina means facing Duke on Wednesday with momentum at home.

-- Reggie Rankin, Scouts Inc.

Breaking down Wisconsin's swing offense