UCLA is now beginning the toughest stretch of its season and, given how tough the season has been to date, today's Georgetown game represents an opportunity for UCLA to stop the bleeding...
The UCLA basketball team has a chance today against Georgetown to stop the bleeding.
Because potentially, this game is the beginning of another brutal stretch in UCLA's schedule that could make the bleeding from the first half of the schedule look like a small, minor cut.
Over the next three weeks, UCLA will play at Georgetown, at Arizona, at Arizona State, return home against Cal and Stanford, then face Oregon State and Oregon on the road.
Before the season, we wrote that this would be the most brutal leg of the schedule. So, if 4-14 and 35-point losses isn't brutal enough for you, strap on your seat belt because the road gets quite a bit bumpier in the next three weeks.
A huge salve would be a win today against Georgetown. And this is how far expectations have fallen: Even a loss where UCLA stays close and plays fairly well would be an accomplishment. If UCLA gets blown out by Georgetown today, it's frightening to think where this team's collective confidence and attitude will be when it heads into Tucson on Thursday.
UCLA's biggest challenge against Georgetown will be containing 6-8, 260-lb. beast Michael Sweetney. He is probably the best low-post player in the country. He's averaging 23 points and 10 rebounds a game. In his last two games, he's averaged 35 points and 14 rebounds. This is Jason Keep all over again, but Jason Keep times two.
Good news for Bruin fans is that 6-11 center Wesley Wilson won't play today, taking a leave of absense from the team. The bad news about Wilson is that he was having a pretty disappointing season anyway and 6-8 senior forward Victor Samnick, a thin, wiry type who has played just about as well as Wilson, will replace him in the lineup. Samnick had 12 and 9 in a loss against Syracuse this week.
Georgetown has a set of two pretty decent long-armed wings in 6-6 junior Gerald Riley and 6-7 freshman Brandon Bowman. Riley is second on the team in scoring (12 points a game) and really Georgetown's best and just about only, consistent three-point threat. Bowman, you might remember, is from Los Angeles Westchester, who's having a solid freshman season. He shows flashes of greatness, then flashes of freshman poor judgment.
Georgetown's point guard is 6-1 sophomore Tony Bethel, who is consistent. He has good instincts setting up his teammates and scores pretty well himself, probably the second-best three-point shooter on the team.
Georgetown gets some pretty decent support off the bench mainly from four players. Drew Hall is a 6-2 sophomore guard who plays hard and provides decent defense, but not much of a scoring punch. Darrell Owens is a 6-6 sophomore forward who comes in and sets picks, and Courtland Freeman, a 6-9 senior, who was pretty highly touted out of high school but a disappointment at Georgetown, provides backup minutes. Ashanti Cook, the 6-2 freshman point guard from Los Angeles Westchester that UCLA didn't recruit also comes off the bench. He had been having a very good freshman year, but then was sidelined for most of January. He's only now playing again, but not in his early season form.
For UCLA, Georgetown is a matchup with some positives and negatives. Sweetney would be a negative. Georgetown is a very good rebounding team – a negative. If you can defensively limit Sweetney with double teams and collapsing a zone on him, Georgetown is very erratic shooting from the outside – positive. Georgetown generally plays good defense, mainly because it limits opponents' scoring in the paint and makes them shoot from the outside. With Georgetown not having to worry about UCLA inside to much it could extend its defense out on its shooters. Hopefully Georgetown will make the same mistake that USC and Henry Bibby did by zoning UCLA. If you play tough man-to-man against UCLA and not allow their shooters room, UCLA struggles.
Georgetown has itself been struggling, at least in getting wins. It's lost four in a row, by an average of four points, against some pretty formidable opponents. It lost away games to Pittsburgh and Notre Dame by one point each. Having been on a tough road trip, the Hoyas could be looking to make things right at home today against UCLA.