UCLA Preview

There has been no rivalry in the Pac-10 the past fews years quite as heated as the battles between Stanford and UCLA, which sets the stage for another classic Thursday. This edition comes at Pauley Pavilion, where no current Stanford player has ever lost. We know about the Casey/Kapono matchup, but Curtis versus Gadzooks could be the deciding point. Simon Sez looks at all the matchups and surrounding factors in his preview.

One of the best rivalries in college basketball resumes Thursday when Stanford goes down to Los Angeles to play the Bruins of UCLA. A lot has been made of the “dominance” UCLA has demonstrated in Maples Pavilion, winning an amazing (sarcastic) two games in a row. What people tend to forget is that Stanford has taken the last four games at Pauley Pavilion. Stanford the past couple of years has entered this matchup as the favorite, and more than once as the number one team in the country. This year is different as Stanford comes in as the underdog - that i,s if the UCLA that beat Kansas by 10 shows up. There are many sides to this UCLA team, and it is almost impossible to predict which team will show up. There is the team that almost lost to Columbia on its home court also lost to Pepperdine. Then somehow UCLA finds a way to beat top ranked Kansas and gain respectability back.

Stanford comes off its best weekend of basketball, albeit against very inferior competition. It must have brought back fond Stanford Invitational memories as Stanford embarrassed Washington State and then Washington on Saturday by a total of 78 points. While the point guard spot is still unclear, the same is occurring at UCLA as Cedric Bozeman has been hurt and has had spotty play. Sometimes he can look like the next great UCLA player, and other times he can look like a wide-eyed freshman. This is a very important juncture in the Stanford season as their tourney seeding is at stake. With two wins this weekend they can skyrocket in the RPI and national rankings. USC and UCLA both have top 15 RPI ranks and have gathered a bunch of quality wins between the two. With losses this weekend, Stanford could be looking at a low seed in the tourney, likely playing a number one seed in the second round. This is one of the few chances to impress the selection committee with “quality” wins. Usually these wins have to come on the road, and Stanford has very few big road games left. A lot will be on the line when Stanford and UCLA take the floor Thursday and here is the cast of characters you will likely see:

PG - Tony Giovacchini Senior 6-2 180 lbs. 3.6 PPG, 2.9 RPG vs Cedric Bozeman Freshman 6-6 193 lbs. 4.1 PPG, 2.3 RPG

This is a very interesting matchup as it is one of two struggling point guards looking to show their coach they are able to run their respective teams. Bozeman burst onto the scene at UCLA and looked like he was going to be the next great player, wihtout missing a beat from the graduation of Earl Watson. Since the beginning of the season he has looked lost and it has often forced Jason Kapono to bring the ball up court and start the UCLA “offense.” To call it an offense is being kind, as it is basically rotate the ball and have someone go 1-on-1. At any rate, Bozeman has had trouble leading UCLA, and it has definitely showed as opposing point’s have had big games against UCLA. Tony has continued his struggles and it really seems to be nagging at him. Sometimes in games now it looks like he is trying to hard to show that he is capable of running the team and it is has affected his play. He missed three mildly contested lay-ups against Washington, which were not pretty to see. He is pushing the ball more, likely with the emergence of Hernandez off the bench, and is definitely trying to make an impact. The problem is he still isn't providing much help on the offensive end as he is shooting 29% from the field. His playing time has significantly dropped the past couple games, often starting and then sitting out for long periods of the game. As everyone knows by now, he wasn’t on the court for the final four minutes in Oregon, which isn’t exactly the easiest environment for freshmen to play. Look for Hernandez to continue to split time with Tony, but both will have trouble guarding Bozeman in my opinion, as Cedric is listed at about 6-6. This will be an extremely tough guard for either player, as neither are great defenders to begin with. Look for Bozeman to win this battle, as he has a tremendous quickness and height advantage over both of Stanford’s point guards. Advantage: Cedric Bozeman

SG - Julius Barnes Junior 6-1 180 lbs. 10.5 PPG, 2.1 RPG vs Billy Knight Senior 6-6 201 lbs 15.9 PPG, 3.4 RPG

This is a really difficult matchup to forecast, as both of these players have had really up and down seasons. Knight does have a decent scoring average and has always done well at Stanford; Barnes also has been scoring pretty well since being inserted in the starting lineup back in early Decemeber. Once again UCLA has a great size advantage as Knight can basically shoot over Barnes at will. Julius can leap very well but to catch up to a guy who has five inches on you is a very tough task. Barnes is the X-factor for Stanford, as CJ noted in his column, when Josh and Julius do well so does the team. Barnes absolutely needs to have a big game if Stanford wants to win. He needs to push the ball and get Casey and the rest of the team easy transition baskets and keep UCLA on their heels. He also can’t make turnovers, which usually lead to transition baskets and three-pointers. UCLA has a deadly duo in Knight and Kapono and if they get hot, Stanford can warm up the bus. Knight as mentioned has had an up and down season, and wasn’t even on the floor for the final four minutes of the UCLA debacle against Arizona. I don’t think Montgomery will let Knight have another big game, and will probably throw different defenses his way to try and disrupt his shot. With UCLA having so many weapons it is tough to try and shut down one player, but the Cardinal would be smart to try and contain Knight, as he has led the two UCLA victories in Maples Pavilion the past two seasons. Look for this matchup to end in a draw, as both players should be productive but not gamebreaking. Advantage: Draw

SF - Casey Jacobsen Junior 6-6 210 lbs 19.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG vs Jason Kapono Junior 6-8 213 lbs 18.6 PPG 6.0 RPG

This is the marquee big-ticket matchup of the game. The winner of this matchup will likely have a big advantage on the outcome of the game. Jacobsen has redefined himself after two tough outings, and has had spectacular games against Oregon and the two Washington schools. He has found his three-point stroke again and is driving to the hoop better than we have ever seen before. True it is difficult to get much out of the Washington games, but 33 points against Oregon on 4-5 three-point shooting is tough to argue with. Also impressive on Saturday was Casey shutting down Washington’s best player, Doug Wrenn.. Casey forced Wrenn into bad shots that started fastbreaks and easy baskets. This is something I am sure Casey wants to show us (and the scouts!!) and that is that he can play defense with the best of them. He is showing improvement and hopefully will be a very effective defender when the tournament rolls around. This will be one of his toughest opponents, as he needs to lock up three-point specialist Kapono. Kapono is a game-breaker and can keep a team in the game by himself. He has routinely tickled the nets at Maples, often times going for 20-25 points and embarrassing the Cardinal defenders. Kapono and Jacobsen have been compared ever since they stepped foot on their respective campuses, which puts added incentive on this game. Both could be off for the NBA next year and most likely want to leave their legacy in this great rivalry. Look for Jacobsen to put on a show near his hometown and light up the Pauley scoreboard. Advantage: Casey Jacobsen

PF - Justin Davis Sophomore 6-8 230 lbs 6.2 PPG, 4.2 RPG vs Matt Barnes Senior 6-7 235 lbs. 17.9 PPG, 4.0 RPG

This is a potentially tough matchup for Stanford as Matt Barnes has been playing out of his mind recently. After debating whether to quit basketball last year, he has come on strong and has really made himself a NBA prospect with his added long-range jumpshot and his big array of post moves. Davis has had trouble defending athletic power forwards and could get into some early foul trouble, as Barnes is very aggressive. He had his way against Jarron Collins last year to the tune of 25 points on about 11-15 shooting if I recall correctly. Davis has a big matchup on this hands and I am sure he will be up to the task. Many people on this board, especially Voltaire, have asked that Montgomery insert Teyo into the starting four spot. At this point I don’t think that will happen, but it most certainly could down the road. Barnes and Teyo could be a much better matchup defensively as Teyo is much quicker than Davis is. Teyo also picks up a foul or two and Kirchofer could be needed for some big minutes off the bench. Davis has continued to be an enigma for Stanford, and looks like he is starting one year too early. Another year of backing up Jason Collins would have been best for him, but obviously with Collins leaving it put Davis in an uncomfortable position. Teyo and Davis both don’t really deserve to start but obviously one of them has to. Davis has had his moments in big games, such as the Michigan State one and could provide some tip-ins or dunks to spark the team. Overall I have to go with the hot Matt Barnes in this matchup, as he has been close to unstoppable. Advantage: Matt Barnes

C - Curtis Borchardt Junior 7-0 240 lbs 16.1 PPG, 10.3 RPG vs Dan Gadzuric Senior 6-11 240 lbs 9.6 PPG 6.4 RPG

Everyone’s favorite, Dan Gadzuric, seems to be entering his 7th season as UCLA’s starting center. He still is a foul machine and still hasn’t really improved his game from his freshman year. He is big for UCLA, defensively, as Arizona started their 25-3 run as soon as he went out of the game. He is a big body in the paint and definitely has had big performances in big games for the Bruins. No one can forget the classic 25 point 18-rebound game he put up against Arizona in last year’s matchup at Pauley. While he can look brilliant at times, like UCLA as a team, he can look downright awful. Jason and Jarron often got Gadzuric in huge foul trouble and often made him play less than 30 minutes in their games. If Borchardt can do the same is another story, but all signs point to him giving Gadzuric trouble if you look at his past games. Curtis has been amazing his last couple games, absolutely controlling the paint and giving teams no second chances. He will need to do this against UCLA, as Gadzuric can’t have any easy dunks to get his team pumped up. Curtis should take over this matchup, as he is basically unguardable now with his nice jump shot developing. He has even poured in some three’s recently as his NBA stock continues to soar. Look for Curtis to have another great game and most likely double-double. Advantage: Curtis Borchardt

Overall what can you say? This is going to be a great game! UCLA has too many sides to predict which one will show up, but you can count on it being one of their better ones. UCLA again enters this game with controversy following last week's embarrassing loss to Arizona. If you remember last year, UCLA came to Maples after losing to Cal by 35. Lavin, of course no stranger to controversy, should have his team ready to play. Overall in this game though I think Stanford is going to make a statement, something they haven’t done all year. They are playing better, and I think their tourney drives with a win over UCLA in Pauley. Advantage: Stanford 81-77

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