UCLA vs Gonzaga: Gameday reads

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For anyone looking for something to do between now and UCLA’s tipoff against Gonzaga at 4:15 p.m. PT (CBS), here’s a roundup of relevant reading:

– Isaac Hamilton started the season on a bumpy path, but has rediscovered his “old man’s game” late in the season.
– UCLA assistant coach Ed Schilling once shot poorly in a football stadium, but he doesn’t think the same will hold for the Bruins at NRG Stadium.
– From the Spokesman-Review: The first person to ever hire Steve Alford as a coach explains how it happened.
– From Grantland: How Kyle Wiltjer turned himself into a star by leaving Kentucky.
– From Y! Sports: An oral history of UCLA’s 2006 comeback against Gonzaga.
– And last but not least … Bill Walton’s recent aMa on Reddit.

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At a glance: No. 11-seed UCLA vs. No. 2-seed Gonzaga

No. 11-seed UCLA (22-13) vs. No. 2-seed Gonzaga (34-2)
NCAA South Regional semifinal
Friday, 4:15 p.m. PT, NRG Stadium (Houston)
TV: CBS (Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery, Grant Hill, Tracy Wolfson)
Radio: AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Tracy Murray)

Scouting report: Gonzaga is, simply put, the best offensive team that UCLA has played this season. The Bulldogs have enough weapons to survive an off night from any one player except Kyle Wiltjer.

Gonzaga is ranked first in the country in effective field goal percentage, and is accurate at the rim, beyond the arc, and most areas in between. Only 6.2 percent of the Zags’ shots get blocked, lower than all but four others in college basketball. Parts you could pick at? This isn’t a team that gets to the line all that often, or converts at a particularly high rate (68.7 percent). It’s not a truly dominant offensive rebounding team.

But overall, this is a very dangerous scoring roster. That offensive engine helped push head coach Mark Few over his recent round-of-32 hump, where Gonzaga ended its past five seasons.

UCLA didn’t get blown out in its only loss at Pauley Pavilion, but it also didn’t look competitive for most of the second half. The Zags led by double digits for almost that entire stretch, and easily snuffed out the one run the Bruins made shortly out of halftime. Still, this is a very different UCLA team than the one that lost five straight starting in December. Continue reading

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UCLA adjusts to shooting in cavernous NRG Stadium

UCLA arrived in Houston last night, and shot around for about an hour or so this morning at NRG Stadium. Formerly known as Reliant Stadium, the football venue can seat up to 80,000 people — absolutely dwarfing any other place the Bruins have played this season.

Will that set-up affect how players shoot?

“You get to go out there and you see how big the stadium is,” said point guard Bryce Alford. “The scoreboard is huge. The court is elevated. All that stuff. It’s what you dream of when you’re a kid, playing in a venue like this. …

“You got to get used to the shooting. It’s definitely different, but they’ve done a great job of making the background darker. There’s black (canvas) behind both hoops. So, I don’t think it will be too much different than shooting in a normal gym.”

In case you missed anything, here’s a roundup of our UCLA-Gonzaga coverage so far this week: Continue reading

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Q&A: March Madness edition — 3/24/15 Answers

Q: What is the over/under on the number of times CBS/Tru/ESPN will reference “Heart….Break….City” between Wednesday and game time?

A: My very scientific analysis puts it at 27.

Q: Snowball’s chance in hell of beating Gonzaga, a team which Mark Few states is the best he has coached?

A: kenpom.com gives UCLA a 23 percent chance of pulling the upset, which feels right to me. I don’t think the Bruins really have an answer for Kyle Wiltjer, though.

Q: Do you lend credence to the sentiment UCLA should not have been selected to participate in this year’s tourney?

A: Talking purely about the quality of basketball the Bruins were playing at the end of the season, I think it’s clear they deserved to be in the field. But there were clear questions about their overall resume — particularly their inability to win on the road — which is why I, like many others, didn’t think they would actually earn a spot come Selection Sunday.

I think UCLA proved it deserved a spot by beating SMU. Goaltending call or not, the Bruins outplayed the Mustangs for most of the game before giving up 19 unanswered points. (Still crazy to look at that number!) Beating UAB isn’t particularly impressive since the Bruins were so much more talented, but you do what you need to get to the Sweet 16.

Q: Playing the “what if” game: What if the goaltending wasn’t called? SMU tips the shot ball by Alford, and Kevon Looney gets the rebound. Continue reading

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