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2013 NCAA Tournament - Minnesota Gopher Basketball vs. UCLA - The "You Stole John Wooden!" Q&A

I check in with Ryan Rosenblatt from Bruins Nation.


It truly is a busy day in Gopher sports. But at 9pm CST, the Gophers finally get to participate in The Madness. To help us get to know UCLA better, I asked the guys at Bruins Nation (@BruinNation) to help out and Ryan Rosenblatt (@RyanRosenblatt) kindly agreed. My absolutely genius answers to Ryan's questions (and some fine answers by From The Barn's Steve) can be found over at BN right now.


The Daily Gopher: I'll be honest, I've seen next to no UCLA games this season. I have a general sense of how your season has gone and I know things with Ben Howland are tense. But I'm not sure how Bruins fans are looking at things. On a scale of "Roland Emmerich Blows Up Pauley Pavillion" disaster and "John Wooden Coaches The Bruins Again", just how close are things to the Roland Emmerich disaster?

Ryan Rosenblatt: It's not a disaster, it's just a resignation to mediocrity. UCLA is a decent team this year, and if Ben Howland is the coach next year, will probably be decent again, but that is the ceiling. It might get much, much worse in the future (like missing the tournament in two out of three years worse, which was the case before this year) because Howland has burned a lot of recruiting bridges in California, but right now UCLA is stuck at average and it won't get better. That's incredibly depressing at a place like UCLA, which has 11 national titles and every natural advantage possible. It takes some real incompetency to put a ceiling on that.


TDG: How would you describe this team and what they try to do offensively and defensively? Who do you think the key players will be in taking on Minnesota?

RR: Offensively, the Bruins run a series of plays intended to get players open coming off of screens that don't usually work and result in someone going one-on-one with a possible kick out to a jump shooter if he gets penetration. More than anything, when not slowing it down and running set plays, UCLA will play quickly and just go one-on-one early in the shot clock.

Defensively, it's tough to say that there's anything coherent going on there. Guys will be aggressive and try to force turnovers because they're not great man-to-man defenders and don't have anyone who can protect the rim so it's turnover or nothing.

Larry Drew is going to be huge because of his ability to get to the rim, which means even more because Jordan Adams is out and he was one of the other guys who could. That there is essentially no back-up for Drew should be struggle makes him even more important.


TDG: Just how important was Jordan Adams to this Bruins team? How would you describe the hole his injury leaves and what can UCLA do to overcome that loss?

RR: He was gigantic. Adams is the team's most versatile scorer and had really improved his defense. He was the best free throw shooter and his toughness really rubbed off on other guys. As for how do you overcome that, luck? Howland drove enough players out of the program that there isn't adequate depth anymore and it's tough to fill that hole.


TDG: Is it possible to "shut down" Shabazz Muhammed? Or is he a "try to contain and hope for the best" kind of guy? What areas does he struggle in (if any)?

RR: Shabazz is certainly stoppable, or slow-down-able because he's pretty tenacious and will find a way to get on the scoreboard, even if he has to play ugly. If you can make Shabazz shoot off of the dribble he's going to run into trouble. He's much better off of the catch. A physical defender can give him some problems too because he sometimes resorts to trying to bully his man so if he can't he'll force bad shots.


TDG: If you look at KenPom or listen to the "experts" talk, it seems clear that one of UCLA's biggest weaknesses (keeping teams off the offensive glass) doesn't match up very well with the one consistent strength of this Minnesota squad (offensive rebounding to the extreme). Do you think this mismatch is overblown or are you legitimately concerned about what it could mean for the Bruins' chances on Friday night?

RR: If Minnesota really is the incredible rebounding team that the media makes them out to be then yes, I'm terrified of what they might do to UCLA on the boards. The Bruins are a horrendous rebounding team and the Gophers could kill them there, but the rebounding drop off from non-conference play to Big 10 play leads me to believe (maybe incorrectly) that Minnesota is not quite the dominant rebounding team that the media makes them out to be.


TDG: Related to the last question...would you consider interior play and toughness to be a weakness for UCLA? How have the Bruins fared against teams who are stronger than they are on the inside?

RR: Big, tough guys kill the Bruins. It's that simple.


TDG: When I look at the tempo stats for UCLA, it appears as though "up-tempo" would be a fair description. Would you agree? And would you consider that to be a strength of the Bruins? How have you fared when your opponents have been able to keep up?

RR: UCLA is definitely up-tempo. They push the ball and often get points before defenses can set up. Considering the amount of one-on-one the Bruins play offensively, playing fast is a no-brainer and has paid big dividends. Teams that can also play fast don't really change that, and the Bruins still get their points, but UCLA doesn't defend in transition well so they can be exposed in transition defense themselves.


TDG: For whatever reason, the Gophers are beyond inept against zone defenses. It is clearly their kryptonite. Should we expect to see any zone from UCLA and is it something you run effectively? Do you think Ben Howland could be persuaded to avoid utilizing it? We make a mean hotdish up here in the snowy wilds and we'd be happy to hook him and the whole team up with a lifetime supply if they were to leave that part of the defensive gameplan back in Cali.

RR: You may see a possession here or there, but not much and it's infuriating. Howland only goes to zone as a very last resort, no matter how much sense it makes.


TDG: What kind of gameplan are you hoping to see the Bruins execute against Minnesota?

RR: Ball security has to be the first, second and third priority for UCLA. I'm pretty comfortable in a game where the Gophers have to play a lot of halfcourt offense and the Bruins usually take care of the ball, but every once in a while the game just gets away from them and they can't get it back. Take care of the ball, especially early on, and I think UCLA does just fine.

Between Shabazz, Drew, Kyle Anderson and Travis Wear, UCLA still had four guys who can score 15+ points so the talent is good enough. Keep the ball, keep focus, and the Bruins should be in solid shape.


TDG: Predictions for tonight?

RR: It's tough to predict because sometimes the Bruins no-show, but I'll assume they show up and play smart to come away with a 78-66 victory.


Thanks to Ryan for taking the time to answer my questions. Be sure to stop back for tonight's basketball OPEN THREAD.


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