Before Friday night’s tip-off, we spoke with Go Joe Bruin editor Jeff Poirier who let us in on his insight into the UCLA – Gophers match up.
Without further adieu.
Losing Jordan Adams was a dagger to the heart for UCLA fans. Not only was he the Bruins’ second-leading scorer with 15.3 PPG, but he was also one of the best defenders on the team. Without Adams, UCLA will be forced to rely on Norman Powell to fill the void. The sophomore guard can definitely keep up defensively, but he lacks the scoring ability needed to make up for Adams’ points. When the Bruins have Adams, they can spread the floor and fill it up from outside, which forces the defense to leave the paint unprotected. But in his absence, UCLA has to play a more traditional, half-court offense, which is not the Bruins’ strength. Against Minnesota, look for UCLA to push in transition in an effort to keep the Gophers off-balance defensively and speed up the game.
Q2: Shabazz and Anderson — could you see them running into any problems with the Gophers front court Friday night? How would you describe their style of play?
Muhammad and Anderson have near-opposite styles of play. Shabazz likes to take the ball and get to the rim quickly, rarely passing or taking the time to fight for boards. Anderson, on the other hand, is a point guard in the body of power forward. His nickname “Slow-Mo” is incredibly appropriate because he is very deliberate with his decision making. Anderson often dribbles down the clock, looking for the open man or a lane to the bucket, but never rushing into a costly turnover. He also is an adept rebounder, which will be hugely important against Minnesota’s front court. I think both freshmen will have a big night for the Bruins, though Muhammad has shown a propensity for vanishing mid-game against bigger competition. Trevor Mbakwe could be the difference for the Gophers in that respect.
Q3: Among the several story lines for this match up, which one is most important for Bruin fans?
Adams’ broken foot is the story of the game, but it’s also old news at this point. Other storylines to watch are head coach Ben Howland’s job status, which could be in serious jeopardy if UCLA falls to Minnesota. Ultimately, that seems to be the main topic of focus for Bruin fans, as most have already accepted the Bruins’ fate this March. Many UCLA supporters want Howland gone no matter what, while some are still on the fence. The outcome of the tourney should be the deciding factor in the decision, which the Bruin faithful are anxious to have resolved.
Q4: If we could trade head coaches, would you take Tubby Smith for Howland?
That’s an interesting question because both coaches are in a very similar boat. Smith had his success with Kentucky (most notably the NCAA title in 1998), and Howland had his three straight Final Fours, but now they’ve both fallen on hard times with their respective programs. Even though that banner in Rupp Arena belongs to Tubby, I still like Howland for UCLA in this scenario. So to answer the question, no I wouldn’t trade for Smith. But that’s not to say I wouldn’t trade Howland if the price was right.
Q5: Seriously, what do L.A.-ites think when they hear Minnesota? For the record, we’re much cooler than any state around us.
Snow, Canada and the various pro sports teams all come to mind when Angelenos think of Minnesota. Though I’ve never been, I’ve heard the Twin Cities are beautiful and I would definitely want to visit someday. But I’ll still take the Southern California weather (which is 70 degrees right now) any day over living in an ice box.
Q6: Prediction for the game? MVP? What’s the leading story line after the final buzzer?
I’m having a really hard time picking this game, especially since I’ve only seen UCLA without Adams once. But if the Wear twins and Tony Parker can rebound even a little bit, I think the Bruins can outscore the Gophers.
Hesitantly, I will pick UCLA to beat Minnesota, 76-72, with Larry Drew II taking home the MVP.
As far as storylines after the game, Howland’s job status will be a big one, as well as Muhammad and Anderson’s NBA Draft decisions. Shabazz is 99 percent sure to be gone, but Anderson has played his cards very close to the vest. If Kyle returns, the Bruins will be much better off next season.