March 22, 2007

UCLA’s decided advantage is on the perimeter with Point Guard Darren Collison and Shooting Guard Aaron Afflalo. The pieces focus on only one of them, but the problem is really that they are on the same team. While Pitt and especially Antonio Graves have helped shut down the stud guard on the last two opponents, the key was there was only one guard. In this case, UCLA presents the difficulty of having two stud guards. Either of whom would be a star player for another team. This is the part of the Pitt-UCLA match-up that presents the greatest difficulty.

Allflalo is the leading scorer for the Bruins, but Collison is their speediest player and the point guard that sets things up. It would appear that Graves will be on Afflalo — at least initially.

The Panthers might own the edge in size, but UCLA has a decided edge in quickness. Levance Fields likely will draw the defensive assignment on Collison, because Antonio Graves will be busy will the Bruins’ leading scorer, Arron Afflalo.

“It’s definitely a challenge,” Fields said. “But he’s going to lace his sneakers up like I do, so I’m not really worried about it. I’m just going to guard him like I normally guard anybody.”

Fields hasn’t guarded anybody this fast. Collison’s mother, June, competed in the 400 meters at the 1984 Olympics for Guyana. His father, Dennis, competed for Guyana in the Pan American Games in the 200-meter sprint.

Collison prefers the 94-foot sprint — think Tyus Edney — but he’s good in the slow-down game, too.

“The thing with Collison, he has a little height (6 feet) and has those long arms,” Pitt forward Mike Cook said. “So, I mean, he’s fast with an athletic body, probably something we haven’t seen from the point guard spot this year.”

I’m very torn on this.  Collison is listed at 6′ 3″ and Afflalo is at 6′ 5″.

It would be problematic size-wise for Fields or Ramon to have to guard Afflalo too often with the height advantage they’d be given up. Afflalo is fully capable of driving and pulling up. He could be shooting over them all night. Graves would only be giving up a couple inches and could stay with Afflalo rather well.
On the other hand, Collison is great at driving to the basket. He can also dish and get past slower players like Fields and Ramon. Graves is probably the best defender from the perimeter and could keep Collison in front of him on drives. Creating more problems and denying the dribble-drive.

I think Graves is going to be switching up on them throughout the night. He won’t be keyed on just one player. I suspect Dixon will use him on both at various points in the game to hopefully frustrate and keep UCLA from getting too comfortable on offense.

I hope Graves got his rest last night, cause he’s not coming off the floor. I think he should stick with Afflalo. Fields absolutely cannot guard him, nor can Ramon for that matter. An interesting matchup that no one has talked about is Cook versus Shipp. Both can score. If Cook can win this battle, we have a shot.

Comment by Crackbaldo 03.22.07 @ 1:08 pm

hopefully benjamin can give us some minutes off the bench of good defense……

Comment by schoe 03.22.07 @ 1:44 pm

I’m hoping that Dixon mixes in zone, just for a possession or two here and there, and not necessarily only when UCLA gets a few hoops in a row. It would be nice to see it used periodically as a way to keep them off balance. If you can disrupt 4-6 possessions even by going zone a few times, that will pay huge dividends.

Also, given that UCLA is not deep, I hope Fields, Graves, and Cook will be aggressive on offense and look to drive and pick up fouls on Collison and Afflalo.

They are going to go at Gray early and try to get him in foul trouble. He can’t be timid, but he can’t be stupid either.

Comment by Carmen 03.22.07 @ 1:46 pm

Under 8 hours to go…going to be long 8 hours..but I think worth the wait…finally going to take the next step. I see on ESPN site using the computer games we win by 1. I think we win 75-68…but then again in past NCAA’s I thought we would beat Kent St, Marquette, Bradley and Pacific…only OK St did I think we would lose.

Comment by bill 03.22.07 @ 2:18 pm

The zone could be very effective against a team like UCLA. Pitt played very well zone defense against Louisville and Marquette. UCLA shoots better from the perimeter than both of those teams, but Pitt can definitely use the zone to confuse them and get a few turnovers. I think Dixon has to use it for a few possessions here and there. I agree with Carmen, I would prefer to see it even if we are up or if the game is tight.

Comment by Omar 03.22.07 @ 3:02 pm

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