Game Preview: SMU vs. UCLA

SMU is in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1993 and faces UCLA at 2:15 p.m. CT!

WHEN: Thursday, March 19 at 2:10 p.m. CT
WHERE: KFC Yum! Center (Louisville, KY)
TV/RADIO: TruTV/KAAM 770 AM
SERIES: UCLA leads the series 2-0.
LAST MEETING: The last meeting saw eighth-ranked UCLA win 99-71 on Dec. 28, 1976 in Pauley Pavillion.

BRACKET BREAKDOWN: SMU vs. UCLA

PONY TRENDS

SMU is coming off one of their toughest three game stretches of the season in the AAC tournament, beating a pesky East Carolina team, grinding out a win over Temple, and outlasting Connecticut in a tough environment. The team had some time to refocus in Dallas after getting their matchup in the NCAA Tournament. SMU needed one last bit of adversity before entering the NCAA Tournament. Nic Moore hasn’t shot the ball well, but the team has found ways to win as it has all year. Against a UCLA team that gets almost all of its points from its starters, SMU will have to be at its best from the start.

OPPONENT STRENGTHS

UCLA is just 2-8 vs. the tournament field and many felt like the Bruins shouldn’t have been in the tournament. That’s fair, but the Bruins are here and have the talent to compete with SMU. If the Bruins can play up to the level SMU has all season, this will be a great game. The Bruins are comfortable with team’s attempting threes against them. Nic Moore, Sterling Brown and maybe an occasional Ryan Manuel three-point shot could be expected. The Bruins allowed Pac 12 teams to shoot 39 percent from three-point land. Will SMU be able to exploit the three-point shot? Nic Moore will likely give it a shot or get it inside to try and get the UCLA bigs into foul trouble like they have a tendency to do.

Three Players to Watch

Bryce Alford: UCLA point guard Bryce Alford, son of Head Coach Steve Alford, can go off when he gets into a groove. The 6-3 sophomore is second on UCLA, averaging 15.3 points per game and leads the team with five assists per game.

Tony Parker: The big man is 6-9 and a lot to handle down low and will be the key player for SMU to neutralize to force UCLA to make shots around the perimeter. Parker averages 11.1 points and 6.6 rebounds per game while shooting 55 percent from the field.

Norman Powell: With Nic Moore handling Alford, Ryan Manuel and Sterling Brown will likely share the duty of guarding the 6-4 senior. Powell averages over 16 points per game and SMU will have to make sure he doesn’t get open looks.

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Sterling Brown/Ryan Manuel vs. Norman Powell. All year, Larry Brown has made adjustments when he doesn’t like the exact matchups he plans for. SMU is comfortable having Manuel and Brown on Powell. Brown will likely draw the start at guarding him, but it’s likely we’ll see some of Manuel on Powell too. Unless someone is lighting it up, Larry Brown won’t be likely to change the matchup. It’s up to Sterling Brown to stifle Powell early, make him settle and keep him out of a groove.

KEYS TO THE GAME

Force tough shots. UCLA’s guards take a lot of shots, even when they’re not exactly open. Some will fall, some will not. SMU has done a fine job of making teams take tough jump shots. While SMU has struggled at times with teams getting hot from three-point range, the team is one of the best in the country at making opponents settle for shots. If SMU can force UCLA to settle, it could be a long night for the Bruins. SMU has to come out hot as well to force UCLA to play catch up.


Pony Stampede Top Stories