5 reasons why Michigan can beat UCLA…
- UCLA is young. UCLA turned it over 23 times against Prairie View A&M and beyond Darren Collison and Josh Shipp they lack experience with 5 freshmen in the rotation. Michigan is getting their shot at the giant at the perfect time, the UCLA freshmen we see on Thursday will look nothing like the UCLA freshmen we see in March.
- John Beilein has had success against UCLA. Beilein knocked off UCLA in both of his last two seasons at West Virginia and somehow kept a Michigan team that didn’t do anything well statistically (besides hold onto the ball) was in the game last year with 9 minutes left.
- Manny Harris. Manny has stepped up early this year and is averaging 28 points per game and nearly posted a triple double against Northeastern. Jrue Holiday struggled early defending Michael Bramos and picked up 2 quick fouls so I wouldn’t be surprised to see UCLA try to put a bigger guy like Josh Shipp on Manny.
- UCLA lost Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. These three combined for 41 points, 31 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 blocks in last years game. Against Miami (OH) their replacements (Jrue Holiday, Alfred Aboya, and James Keefe) combined for only 14 points and 9 rebounds. Replacing 3 NBA guys with a freshman and 2 role players isn’t a recipe for success — especially early in the season.
- UCLA doesn’t have the post presence that dominated Michigan last year. UCLA out rebounded Michigan 47-29 last year and dominated the game down low. Michigan’s post play isn’t any better than last year but Aboya, Keefe, Morgan, and Gordon are basically role players right now. While I expect Michigan to get out rebounded I think that Michigan needs to try to establish DeShawn down low on offense. This will be a chance for DeShawn to show that he can get it done inside this year.
And 5 reasons why Michigan can’t beat UCLA…
- UCLA has been through it all. UCLA won’t be fazed by playing in the Garden, they have been to three straight final fours. UCLA has had close calls against Michigan but always seems to make the big play when they need it. While there is youth on the roster, Collison, Shipp, and Aboya don’t know anything besides the final four and should be able to provide leadership.
- Darren Collison. Collison will give Michigan fits up and down the floor on both offense and defense with his quickness. I would expect UCLA to bring the full court pressure early and often to test Michigan’s ball handling. Holding on to the ball is the key for Beilein teams against more athletic teams like UCLA, this will be a big test for Merritt, Grady, Douglass, Novak, and CJ.
- These freshman can play. Jrue Holiday (8ppg, 1rpg) was the #2 player in the country and J’Mison Morgan (2.5 ppg, 1.5 rpg), Malcolm Lee (7ppg, 4rpg), Drew Gordon (4ppg, 5rpg), and Jerime Anderson (1.5 ppg) were all top 50 recruits (Freshman highlights vs Praire View A&M). While they might be having some growing pains I wouldn’t be surprised if any one of these kids got hot this weekend at the Garden.
- Josh Shipp. Shipp has struggled with his shot early this season while trying to adapt to being the go to guy for the Bruins. However throughout his career it feels like he has just killed Michigan. Shipp has been 7-10 against Michigan the last 2 years for a total of 37 points in two games. Shipp also had 8 points and a steal during UCLA’s 10-0 run that took last years game from 43-43 to 53-43.
- It’s a neutral site game against a top 10 team. As we all know, Michigan just hasn’t performed on the road or at neutral sites in big games. While this could change on Thursday, I am taking a wait and see approach.