UCLA Must Take Down Hoosiers On Their Way to the Championship Print
Written by TheSpread   
Saturday, 17 March 2007 06:30

2nd Round Bruins Against Hoosiers

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -History doesn't weigh heavily on most college basketball stars in this era of transfers, coaching turnover and teenage pros.

Yet Arron Afflalo and Roderick Wilmont aren't like most stars. Both the UCLA guard and his Indiana counterpart comprehend the decades of tradition they inherited at their chosen schools - and they both know few other players in the NCAA tournament can understand their pride.

Oddsmakers have made UCLA -7 point spread favorites (College Basketball Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 126.5 total points (View College Basketball Sports Books). Our public betting information shows that 76% of bets for this game have

been placed on UCLA -7 (View College Basketball Bet Percentages).

Indiana and UCLA are among the top seven schools in tourney history in championships, victories, total appearances and Final Four berths. When the teams meet in the second round of the NCAA tournament's West Regional on Saturday, two schools with a combined 16 titles will attempt to get one step closer to another.

UCLA nearly did it last season, reaching the championship game - yet Afflalo, the Pac-10's player of the year, knows he's still a minor figure in this historic matchup.

``We feel we always have something to prove,'' Afflalo said. ``Compared to other UCLA teams, we haven't accomplished a lot so far.''

Second-seeded UCLA (27-5) is living up to its pedigree so far this season. The Bruins spent six weeks at No. 1 with an offense built around Afflalo, who had 22 points and eight rebounds in their blowout win over Weber State in the first round Thursday.

Meanwhile, Indiana (21-10) earned the seventh seed in its first season under coach Kelvin Sampson, who already has taken steps to revive the tradition left by Bob Knight.

``A lot of championships have been won, (and) we weren't even born or thought of,'' said Wilmont, a fifth-year senior for the Hoosiers. ``But both schools have got great history, and both schools are trying to make their own history now.''

After a solid Big 10 season, the Hoosiers won their fourth straight opening-round game Thursday, holding off Gonzaga. But their reward is a matchup with the Bruins, who appeared headed for a No. 1 seed until losing their final two games before the tournament.

``It's an honor to be a part of a game like this, just because of what these programs have meant over the course of years,'' Sampson said. ``I don't know what's going to happen (Saturday), but I think our fan base is excited about our future. That's what Ben has done at UCLA. The best thing a coach can do is give your fans hope for the future.''

Bruins coach Ben Howland also has a sense of these schools' comparable pasts. He has recruited in Indiana, attending countless high-school games in gyms with a bigger seating capacity than the population of the town that built them. He also jumped at the chance to sit in John Wooden's chair in Westwood - and in just four seasons, he has led the Bruins back to the elite strata they once shared with Indiana.

``When you want to play with programs that have great historical tradition, there's none better than UCLA,'' Howland said. ``And obviously, Indiana has one of the greatest traditions ... in that program, in the state of Indiana, in the high-school game.''

The Bruins are expected to focus their defense on limiting Indiana's inside-out ball movement among forward D.J. White and the Hoosiers' guards, who frequently set up each other for easy baskets. On the other end, the Hoosiers will apply any defensive scheme they can muster to shut down UCLA's disciplined, alert offense.

While Howland showed up to Friday's practices looking a bit harried after a long night of film study, Sampson seemed almost sanguine about his Hoosiers' slim chances of knocking off the Bruins.

``UCLA, they don't press, they don't zone,'' he said. ``They're not the hardest team in the world to prepare for. They're just hard to play against. Knowing how to stop a team is a whole lot easier than stopping them.''

Wilmont hit six 3-pointers against Gonzaga, and the Hoosiers will attempt to set up many more for their perimeter players. UCLA plays faster than Indiana, so the clash of styles could determine the result.

``We have to have a great defensive effort and hope they don't burn us in transition,'' Howland said. ``They have four great shooting guards (who make) 40 percent from 3-point range, so they're very good at getting out and pushing the ball.''

Although the coaches are fairly new and the players are all young, tradition still will be in the air at Arco Arena. After all, Indiana's red-and-white striped warmup pants and UCLA's traditionally gorgeous white uniforms haven't changed much since both schools were ruling the sport.

``We know they have a lot of championships, but we're not going to focus on the past,'' White said. ``We're focused on the future.''

by: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us

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