Saturday, April 01, 2006

Championship Game Set: UCLA vs. Florida

And then, there were two. Here is my take:



GMU had a great run. Maybe they were a little nervous, not expecting to get this far. But they clearly did not look like the GMU of the previous rounds, especially in the second half.

But, don't be fooled. Florida is the better team on paper and on the court. Billy Donovan had his team prepared for this particular game and did not let them look past it. Florida has looked good throughout the tourney, I have to say that I am not at all surprised, they have made to the final game. A lot of credit goes to the coach.

But, as for GMU, there is nothing to be ashamed about in the least. And if the powers that be in that program play their cards right, they will use this as a valuable recruiting tool. If they do, they build a good program and they will be back. Blow it, and they end up like Indiana State. (After Bird left, they have pretty much stunk. No marketing, no effort.)


What can you say? The naysayers said that UCLA did not have a defense. And yet, for the second game in a row, they have held their opponent to 45 points. With that kind of effort, you do not need a lot of offense and can suffer some scoring droughts like they had at times tonight. But I would also say, some of UCLA's dry spells on the offensive end were due some pretty good "D", on the part of LSU. UCLA was able to get some runs going at different points, LSU just never could get into a rhythm (or a run).

The reason UCLA's defense is so good in one word, would be: Hands.

Their hands get into passing lanes, force altered passes and/or shots, and get tips/swats to thoroughly disrupt the play. They also swarm the ball at times and force off-balanced shots. By the time a team starts to get good looks and takes a few good shots, they miss them. Because, they have already gotten into their heads and made the opposition act tentatively.



First of all, I make no secret for my bias towards UCLA. But, I also have to say that if Florida was playing almost anyone else, I would be rooting for them. I do not like Florida football (Uof F, FSU, or Miami), at all. And since it is a football state, I cannot but help being glad that the basketball program is in much better shape, than the football program. Additionally, I do like Billy Donovan. He is one good coach, both as a strategist and a motivator. He is top-notch.

But the thing that impresses me about UCLA besides the defense, is the depth. Notice how well the bench played, especially on defense. At the end of the second half, 4 of the 5 UCLA starters were on the bench and still LSU could not gain ground on them. UCLA has the horses, Florida has the coaching. But Monday night, something will have to give.

For Florida to win, they will have to play the game of their lives and not allow UCLA to dictate. They will have to play good defense and put pressure on the three-point shooters, by either getting them out of position to shoot or by keeping hands in their faces, as they shoot. They cannot allow the Bruins to get the hot hand, or it will be "wait til next year time" for the Gators. (Remember, UCLA has not gotten extremely hot in either of the last two games and still made it look easy.)

UCLA must keep Noah from having his way and must do much of the same things as they did tonight. They have the talent, they have the depth, and they have both quick feet and hands. They react to the ball very well, with both. They are a quick thinking and reacting bunch for sure, but they must be careful not to get too impetuous. They must remember that Florida is able to push the tempo, as well. They cannot allow it, if they want to win.

Prediction: UCLA (Were you really surprised?)


Always On Watch said...

I suspected that GMU would lose this one. But both coach and team are good losers and excellent models of good sportsmanship.

LASunsett said...

I wholly and completely agree. They have conducted themselves in a most admirable manner and like I said, have nothing to be ashamed about.

Only one team will be crowned, the rest always have next year. This year it will be either Florida or UCLA.

It was a great run.

superfrenchie said...

So, LA, ready to face the Frenchie? ;)

Go Noah!

Note: On the music player on my site, I put 2 songs from his father (#51 and #52). While Yannick was first known for being a tennis champ, he is now better known as a pop star (african reaggae)


A.C. said...

Noah picked a heckuva time to bloom into a dominant player.

LASunsett said...

SF and AC,

Florida deserved it, they wanted it more. What else can I say?

As I said in my posts, I would have been rooting for the Gators had my Bruins not been the opponents.

Noah was/is awesome and will be a fantastic NBA player, someday. But, you have to give some credit to the coach on this one, he got these kids ready, he had them prepared. Players do not develop/blossom by themselves.

Look at Indiana University. The coach that just left, was a stellar recruiter, he just could not teach the game, nor could he develop talent. As a result, he is looking for a job.

superfrenchie said...

FWIW, Noah said he wasn't going to the NBA next year, and he added that he finds the NBA boring. He said he once went to a New Jersey game (he went to the UN international high school in New York), and left at half time. He left the impression that he wasn't sure at all he would play there.

Alright, he's 20. What does he know about what he'll do next week...? ;)

But he'll play for France in the next Olympics! We're getting quite a team: Noah, Tony Parker of the Spurs, Boris Diaw of the Phoenix Suns, Michael Pietrus of Golden State, Johan Petro of the Sonics.

Watch out, Dream Team! ;)

A.C. said...

SuperFrenchie, I still can't believe Yannick Noah has a 20 yr old kid. I haven't followed his career, but didn't think he was that old.

superfrenchie said...

a.c.: //I still can't believe Yannick Noah has a 20 yr old kid. I haven't followed his career, but didn't think he was that old.//

That was one reason he cited for winning only one major tournament. 2 years after he won the French Open, he had Joachim (with a Swedish model). He said at the time that he was no longer able to concentrate as much on tennis.

Soon after, he launched his pop career.

Here is a good report about Joachim and Yannick, in which he explains all that (in French, sorry)

Also, Yannick's father, Zachary, was a soccer star in France in the 60's.

LASunsett said...

SF: Noah said he wasn't going to the NBA next year, and he added that he finds the NBA boring. He said he once went to a New Jersey game (he went to the UN international high school in New York), and left at half time. He left the impression that he wasn't sure at all he would play there.


I honestly do not know what he'll do, I know he has to do what will make him happiest, as do all of us.

But I think it says a lot about why the young man plays the game, and with so much passion. He loved it. He wasn't arrogant, he was very passionate and I saw that throughout the whole tournament. I was truly impressed with him, as a player and a leader on the court.

I do remember reading in one of your posts, as to how you like the NBA better than the NCAA. Noah is but one example as to why many Americans do like the college game better.

Right now he doesn't care about the pros, he may (as you say) later, but for now he doesn't. in college, there are less games, so each game means more. The pros have 82 games per regular season, plus however many preseason games, and if they go deep into the playoffs or win it all, they have to drag their overpaid asses up and down the courts somewhere around 100+ games per year, and that doesn't even count practice.

It's a job, the passion begins at the beginning of the season ( for about a week) then doesn't come back until April or May. And I say this despite the fact that I love the NBA too. I think they both have their places. But as you were able to see last night, the college game has real passion that comes for the simple price of an education. The colleges cash in, but the players can leave with a college degree for practically nothing. It's still not a bad deal from where I sit.