Tuesday, 21 November 2006

Report from Maui

Ok, I'm not actually in Maui... but I did watch the UCLA/Kentucky game and part of the Georgia Tech/Memphis game from the Maui Invitational, and here's what I saw.

- I only saw the last 10 minutes of the GT/Memphis game, and thank goodness for that! I kid you not when I saw the last 10 minutes took one hour real time. Lots of fouls, no flow, etc. A combined 64 fouls and 87 free throws shot. That's awful.

Onto the UCLA/Kentucky game... excellent ballgame all around as UCLA won 73-68. Here's what I noticed:

- Jordan Farmar was excellent for the Bruins last year, but thus far there has been absolutely no dropoff with Darren Collison in the lineup. The numbers were good (10 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 steals), but it's everything else that is impressive. He is FAST, and gets down the court on the break in a hurry. He plays great pressure man-to-man defense (the area of the game where he is much better than Farmar ever was), and he is a very good passer. Backup PG is a little bit of a concern, but Darren Collison is just fine replacing Farmar.

- Ryan Hollins who? Excellent game for Lorenzo Mata down low, with 12 points and 12 rebounds. He flashed some moves with his back to the basket, but more importantly was excellent on the glass and held Morris to only 11 points (though UK guards helped there).

- UCLA is definitely one of the top defensive teams in the country. As excellent as Collison is man-to-man, Arron Afflalo is even better. Down low, they've got lots of depth that all play solid defense... Mata, Alfred Aboya, Ryan Wright, etc. And then there's Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, kind of a hybrid defender... he can block shots down low, and he's athletic enough to get outside and guard. And all of this with the attitude of Ben Howland. They're a fun defensive unit to watch.

- I've heard lots of talk about how improved Kentucky will be this year... and they are... but I think not as much as people think. Randolph Morris is their only real threat on the block, and that leaves the guards to do a lot of dribbling. At times Ramel Bradley and Joe Crawford can just become black holes and just dribble seemingly endlessly, and that destroys any flow. I don't see them being higher than a 6 seed in the Tourney at all.

- Kentucky's best player was freshman Derrick Jasper. He scored 12 points (on 4 shots), grabbed 8 rebounds, and doled out 4 assists. He was unselfish, confident going to the hoop, and provided the spark the Wildcats needed to get back in the ballgame in the first half. Very impressive day for him.

- UCLA was 2/19 from downtown and 13/23 from the FT line... and they still won by 5. I don't think Ben Howland can be too upset about that.

UCLA vs. Georgia Tech Wednesday at 9 PM CST for the Maui Invitational Title... I like UCLA's experience and defensive toughness to be the difference here. Once GT slowed the game down against Memphis the Tigers could not handle it... UCLA will not have that same problem.