March 22, 2007

I know, I wanted to believe it when I first read that UCLA wasn’t planning to bring the double on Aaron Gray. There was some logic. Rather than try and keep the ball out of his hands that way, why not just play the guards tight on defense and make it that much harder for the guards to even see the lane to make the pass.

No one believed it, though, least of all Gray.

“I don’t anticipate seeing the ball without having two guys on me,” Gray said. “Especially against UCLA.”

And he’s right to expect it. The Bruins did it against Indiana with D.J. White, and their inside guys have already tipped their hand.

“We’ve been out-sized all year,” Bruins forward Josh Shipp said. “It hasn’t really bothered us too much. We do a lot of double-teaming and rotating. We’re just going to stick to what we do, and hopefully, that works.”

And not just one player saying that.

UCLA’s double teaming of Gray will be different than what UCLA employed against Indiana’s big man D.J. White, who wasn’t double-teamed until he dribbled and turned his shoulder toward the basket.

“(Gray) has to be double-teamed,” UCLA reserve power forward/center Alfred Aboya said.

“He’s big. We will have to double team, and it will be tough to double team him because he’s a great passer.

“We have to be aggressive. We can’t give him any room to dribble, or throw the ball.

“He’s very quick. With D.J. we had to wait. But with him, we have to double as soon as he catches the ball.”

As for Shipp’s comment that being out-sized all year hasn’t really bothered them. Well, not exactly.

Stanford had Brook and Robin Lopez, Washington had Spencer Hawes and Jon Brockman, and going back to last year’s championship game, Florida had Joakim Noah and Al Horford.

Each game resulted in a UCLA loss.

So it makes sense UCLA coach Ben Howland is concerned about Pittsburgh’s twobig guys – senior center Aaron Gray and redshirt senior power forward Levon Kendall – and the anxiety doesn’t abate because Howland recruited both to Pittsburgh.

This game, also expect them to use bodies on Gray just to foul.

Pine guys needed: UCLA backup center Ryan Wright has played nine minutes, committed three fouls, has one rebound and is yet to score a point the NCAA Tournament. Backup power forward James Keefe has played 12 minutes, committed four fouls, has four rebounds and scored two points.

With Pittsburgh’s size and strength and the propensity of Bruins top reserve Alfred Aboya to get into foul trouble, Howland said he expected Wright and Keefe to play a role against the Panthers.

So, yes, the guys inside provide a real match-up problem. The thing to note — Levon Kendall has to have another good game on offense.  Gray has to find him as well as passing back out. Kendall is the guy inside who can help keep UCLA from bringing the double-team too early. If Kendall can finish he forces more of a rotation rather then straight double-teaming. Kendall is also a much better free throw shooter so if he gets the ball and they come late. He gets to the line. And we all know which of the two — Gray or Kendall — that Pitt wants to be shooting free throws.

In a homage to my pure homer-ific bliss that is forming before game time, wouldn’t it be nice if Levon got blasted by offensive gamma rays and transformed into that guy that dropped 40 on Team USA? Think about the storylines, the sheer joy and the justification for going into work late the next day.

Ahhhhh, bask in endorphin-inducing anticipatory goodness.

Comment by Jeff 03.22.07 @ 10:17 am

Here’s why Pitt’s going to win. We have three seniors in our starting lineup. UCLA has none:

Mike Cook – Jr.
Levon Kendall – Sr.
Aaron Gray – Sr.
Levance Fields – So.
Antonio Graves – Sr.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute – So.
Josh Shipp – So.
Lorenzo Mata – Jr.
Darren Collison – So.
Arron Afflalo – Jr.

Comment by Howard 03.22.07 @ 10:35 am

wow…work is worse then ever today……this sucks….can it be 10PM yet…..

Comment by Schoe 03.22.07 @ 10:46 am

your point about the interior matchup favoring Pitt is of course true. However, trying to divine the outcome of our game by looking to UCLA’s losses to Stanford, Washington and Florida as a guide is a little off the mark; UCLA lost to Stanford and Washington (this loss after UCLA played a grueling game at Washington State and won the Pac-10 title) on the road but beat them both handily at Pauley Pavilion. The Florida game did present serious matchup problems for UCLA, but I don’t think Gray and Kendall favorably compare with Noah and Horford-they are not as quick or as skilled, especially offensively (although they are certainly capable players.) UCLA also lost to Oregon and Cal(!), neither of which have a solid inside game. The real hallmark of these losses is not that the winners all have excellent front courts, but that each team had strong perimeter shooting that complemented at least a decent interior offensive game. If Pitt shoots well from outside, Gray won’t need to be great, merely serviceable, for Pitt to win.

Comment by ucladj89 03.22.07 @ 11:57 am

i wonder if this really is going to be the big bad defensive game everyone is telling us to anticipate. it’s not like neither team can score.

i doubt that fields is going to settle with walking the ball up the court, bc that would be playing to UCLA’s strength. so don’t be suprised to see him pushing and trying to get transition points from young/cook/graves… the real question will be: can he push the pace and run without getting reckless? we’ve seen a couple of differnt levance fields in games, but the key will be how tight his handle is. if he can run the point effectively and navigate transition (and keep ramon from being forced to handle the ball too much – we know that doesn’t bode well for us), we will be in great shape.

i agree with schoe, this is turning into a LONG day at work.

Comment by Greg in Columbia 03.22.07 @ 12:16 pm

Once we get to the elite 8 and find those jay hawk fucks who are making that movie, we’re gonna make ’em eat our shit, then shit out our shit, then eat their shit which is made up of our shit that we made ’em eat. Then you’re all you motherfucks are next. Love, Jay and Silent Bob.

Comment by jay and silent bob 03.22.07 @ 12:22 pm


Comment by Matt O 03.22.07 @ 12:26 pm

wow…its been 2 hours since i made that post…felt like 2 days…..sigh

id love to see one so called “analyst” or “sportswriter” pick us….wtf….its not like we dont match up well vs them or anything…..ughhhhhhhhhhhhh

Comment by Schoe 03.22.07 @ 12:54 pm

JA Adande from LA has us. That is all.

Comment by Stuart 03.22.07 @ 5:13 pm

OH SHIT! Woody Paige and Tim Cowlishaw just picked us! 3 people believe!

Comment by Stuart 03.22.07 @ 5:16 pm

Dear stuart, there is a reason that only 3 people “beleive”… pitt cant handle ucla…its been a good run for the panthers but it will end tonight! To jay and silent bob u r gross that really represents what pitt fans r all about…This one is for Howard, having 3 seniors to ucla having no senior starters should really effect the outcome…nottt.. tell that to greg oden and kevin durant

Comment by LETS GO STATE 03.22.07 @ 9:37 pm

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