UCLA Preview

It is officially crunch time for the Arizona State Sun Devils. With four games remaining in the regular season and an NCAA Tournament bid within reach, ASU (17-9, 7-7) will likely need to win at least two of their last four games to ensure a bid to the big dance. Heading into their final home stand, the Sun Devils will play host to the UCLA Bruins (24-3, 12-2) on Thursday night.

The Bruins are the Pac-10 leaders and ranked 4th in the nation. The first meeting between these two teams was a harsh lesson learned for the maroon and gold as UCLA toyed with the young and sloppy Devils to the tune of an 84-51 drubbing that wasn't nearly as close as the score indicated. Josh Shipp, older brother of ASU's Jerren Shipp, and Kevin Love paced the steady and deep Bruins with 21 and 20 points respectively. The only player in double digits for ASU was Derek Glasser with 13. UCLA had a flawless game plan and shot 31-53 from the field including 8-12 from 3-point range.

Head Coach Ben Howland

Projected Starters

PG – Darren Collison – (14.4 PPG, 4.2 APG)
SG – Russell Westbrook – (12.4 PPG, 4.8 APG)
SF – Josh Shipp – (13.6 PPG, 34% 3PT)
PF – Luc Richard Mbah a Moute – (9.1 PPG, 5.5 RPG)
C – Kevin Love – (17.0 PPG, 11.0 RPG)

Impact Reserves

F – Alfred Aboya
F – James Keefe
C – Lorenzo Mata-Real

Overview

After a mere eight total wins a season ago, the Sun Devils are trying to regain national attention and are currently stationed directly on the NCAA Tournament bubble with a current RPI of 70. As of now, the Sun Devils resume includes a pair of wins over archrival Arizona, a big win over Stanford, and a rout of Xavier. Yet their body of work also includes ugly losses to Illinois, Nebraska, and Washington. A win over UCLA would be a significant step on the road to earning a ticket to March Madness but of course that is much easier said than done. After a 33-point beat down last month, the Sun Devils will need a better defensive scheme and they absolutely must find some rhythm on the offensive end early on before UCLA takes control.

Guards

Echoing the sentiments of college basketball analysts across the land, Darren Collison is one of the elite point guards in college basketball and as he goes, so go the Bruins. Quick as lightning and very fluid running the offense, Collison will give Derek Glasser and Jamelle McMillan all they can handle and more. Joining Collison in the backcourt will be the uber-athletic Russell Westbrook - a dangerous slasher that attacks the basket with no remorse. The one downside of the Bruins' backcourt is their lack of depth.

With sharpshooter Michael Roll out with plantar fasciitis on his left foot, the roster is scarce with guards with Chace Stanback as the only pure position player here. ASU will counter with Glasser and McMillan manning the point while Ty Abbott will be on the wing. The key for the Devils will be crisp ball handling and more importantly, run some plays for Abbott to square up and shoot.

Solid Edge – UCLA

Forwards

In the first meeting between these two teams, the forward play proved vital for UCLA's blowout. Josh Shipp went off for 21 points while Mbah a Moute, Aboya, and Keefe all helped UCLA dominate the boards. ASU will counter with James Harden and Rihards Kuksiks. Harden only scored nine points in his return to his hometown of Los Angeles and struggled to create anything on offense.

Kuksiks is a new addition to the rotation and truly gives the Devils another dangerous option. Highly recruited out of high school, the Latvian freshman that was schooled in Florida has fantastic shooting range and has gained more confidence as each minute he is on the floor goes by. If Kuksiks can open up the defense and give Harden more room to penetrate then ASU will be in much better shape compared to their last outing in Westwood. Jerren Shipp will get quality minutes in the frontcourt, with Antwi Atuahene seeing some action as well. Edge – Even

Centers

Kevin Love is a special talent and will be in consideration for NCAA Player of the Year and many other post-season awards. His play this season has elevated UCLA to a legitimate National Championship favorite. Love can score in the paint and step out and hit a shot from the perimeter as well as rebound with anyone. Nonetheless, his most impressive skill may be his passing ability.

Love will be up against the heart and soul of the Sun Devils, Jeff Pendergraph. In the first meeting, Love went for 20 points and ten rebounds while Pendergraph was held to a measly six points and a lone carom. It is unlikely that Pendergraph will struggle like that again but Love is a phenomenal player and the rest of the team will need to play well to allow Pendergraph to operate on both ends of the court.

Solid Edge – UCLA

Final Score – UCLA 76 Arizona State 67


Sun Devil Source Top Stories