Yes, it's trite but that will be the mantra that a lot of CBB fans will use when looking at last nights game between Memphis and ucla.
Out run and out gunned would be another one; regardless ucla didn't have the answers. This was a totally different Memphis team than the one SC played against in December at Madison Square Garden. These guys were freakish in how they just physically pounded the bruins. I have seen enough ucla basketball this season to determine that they are very very good. Ben Howland at this point has the unfortunate moniker of best coach not to win a title, but more on that later.
We have seen time and again how ucla has pounded teams into submission this season. Their ability to effective corral the offensive boards, their points in the paint and their ball control, read limiting turnovers made them a favorite to win this thing. I will be honest I thought they were going to win it all but will make no bones about it that I hoped they would lose at every turn. There was a lot noise about the favorable calls they got against Stanford, Cal and aTm but really there were other factors that those three teams fell victim to that enabled those calls to take place. Until last night there seemed to be no obstacle that they couldn't over come but they were schooled last night. Over the course of that game you could see the bruins just get deflated because whatever the game plan was it wasn't working.
There has been a lot of talk about the style of play that ucla has been playing since Ben Howland came to ucla. I would agree that it isn't pretty and a mini-blog war ensued between Burnt Orange Nation and Bruins Nation over it but last night it was painfully clear that Ben Howland who has lived by the sword was going to die by it as well. Look, against the Pac-10 that style of play works for the most part but there isn't another team like Memphis in the Pac 10 that they could cut their teeth on in preparation for this game and it showed. Its not their fault but it was definitely their Achilles heal. And you could tell their karma left them when not one but two 3-pointers rimmed out. Those are shots that they usually make but the horseshoe turned upside down last night. For the most part they have shot fish in a barrel throughout the season and in the early part of the tournament but last night they went up a well-armed force.
The guard play of Memphis' Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts had ucla back on their heels all night. They have not seen that before and it was obvious that ucla was going to have a tough time defending their abilities. Collison looked shell-shocked and his fouling out with 4 minutes left in the game showed just how tough of a time he had against Memphis. I have read a boatload of comments about transitions and double teams missed shots and coaching schemes. The fact is Memphis was the better team and the out played ucla from start to finish, there is no shame in losing to this team they are that good.
As for Howland, he coaches how he coaches and he isn't going to change. But some of what I read from Plaschke today is little off base:
His shirt was stained dark blue with sweat. His stare was glazed over with wonder. His screams were about the stunning combination of pounding and precision that was Memphis.
Ben Howland spread his arms and answered for the entire Bruins nation.
"What do you want me to do, Kevin?" he shouted back.
What did we want him to do, indeed.
Howland's style is one of containment and tempo control. There was just no way with the athletes on Memphis that he could cover all the bases.
Well the numbers don't lie but come on Bill THREE straight final fours?? You're kidding right? There isn't a CBB fan out there that wouldn't trade what they have for that type of production. I love coach Floyd but I would kill for just to sniff one Final Four let alone go to 3. Yes to many of us Howland's style of play is simply UGLY but you can't argue with the production. He isn't going to change his offensive style; he isn't going to cede control of the offense all he can do is coach what he has recruited and for the most part that's been pretty effective.
More from the article:
But for him to become a national championship coach, he needs to recruit better athletes, and let them be better athletes.
This doesn't mean changing his defensive approach. It simply means opening his steel-trap mind just enough to entertain the possibility that even a great defensive team needs to have that same dedication to offense.
Florida threw two strikes against the UCLA philosophy. Memphis has just thrown another one.
I think that's fair. Howland is a better coach than say Calipari, but if Calipari can get those type of athletes why can't ucla? With all the supposed tradition I would think that they would be able to attract those type of athletes. No one will argue that Howland can't develop players but that isn't enough. Love was supposed to be the final piece to the puzzle but Mata-Real graduating and Love probably heading to the NBA where is the big man needed to jam the middle?
Recruiting does fall on him so the next question is what will it take. There is no question that at some point he will win a title but to a lot of fans out there thought this was going to be his best chance with the best team he has ever compiled.
While I'm happy they lost I won't deny that I would love to have that sort of success at SC. They may not have won a title this year but they were a hell of lot closer in the last three years than we have ever been.
An impressive track record if you ask me.