November 20, 2008

UCLA faces a tought test tonight

UCLA (2-0), the champions of the Los Angeles region, will tipoff against Michigan (2-0) ,the winners of the Ann Arbor region tonight at approximately 6:30 PM PST in New York's Madison Square Garden.

The Wolverines are coached by John Beilein, often considered one of the best coaches in the business. Beilein is in his second year coaching Michigan, and he is expected to be just as big of a success as he has at all his other D-I.

UCLA fans may remember Beilein's tough and well coached West Virginia squad, where he twice beat the Bruins. Beilein has a career-coaching record of 561-340 (.622) with winning records in 26-of-30 years and has made 10 postseason appearances in 16 seasons as a D-I coach.

The sign of a good coach is seeing your team get better from day one to the end of the season and that's exactly what the Wolverines did in Beilein's first year on the job. They showed improvement. Case in point, half of Michigan's 10 victories a year ago, came over the course of their last 10 games.

Now with a year under Beilein's system Michigan is off to a fine start the Bruins will take on an experienced unit that is very disciplined.

Defensively the Wolverines will play some man-to-man and they will change it up with a 1-3-1 zone trap. UCLA's youngsters will have to be able to identify the two defenses or they could end up turning the ball over.

Offensively the Wolverines are very patient and they usually take good shot making them very hard team to defend.

The Wolverines are led by sophomore guard Manny Harris (6-5, 185), who was selected the Ann Arbor Region's Coaches vs. Cancer MVP, after averaging 28.0 points per game, 8.5 assists and 5.0 rebounds.

Harris had his career best of 30 points participating in this tournament, and came up just two assists light of scoring a triple double in the regional final against Northeastern, when he accounted for 26 points, a career best 10 rebounds and eight assists. In addition to his regional MVP honors, Harris was also the Big 10 player of the week

The Bruins will also have to be aware of junior forward, DeShawn Sims (6-8, 235), who was also a key ingredient in Michigan advancing in the tournament. He racked up his first career double-double against Michigan Tech by scoring 10 points and a career best 12 rebounds. Against Northeastern, he tallied 19 points and seven rebounds.

UCLA's regional MVP and Pac 10 player of the week, Darren Collison will have to continue his masterful play and the UCLA's senior leadership will have to keep the youngsters poised against a team that has the potential to create problems for the Bruins.

The Bruin seniors, Collison, center Alfred Aboya and swingman Josh Shipp all hit clutch free throws down the stretch against Miami of Ohio, but it will help the Bruin cause if they can hit better than the 60.5 percent they have so far this season from the foul line.

It will also help if the Bruins can do a better job hitting their threes. They have hit only 32.5 percent of their threes in their first two games.

One of UCLA's coach Ben Howland's biggest concerns going into the season was his team's ability to rebound. So far so good, as the Bruins averaging 13 more rebounds a game than the opposition.

The Bruins beat the Wolverines and Beilein, a year ago, so they know it can be done, but the experience equation has shifted to Michigan as five of UCLA's 11 scholarship players are true freshmen. This Bruins team faces a tough test against Michigan this evening.

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