ANALYSIS: WHY UCLA WILL WIN ...: HELP DEFENSE WILL HELP BRUINS TO 12TH NATIONAL TITLE.
INDIANAPOLIS - This is awkward, but it's real. Feels journalistically uncomfortable, but dead on.
UCLA will win the national championship tonight.
That shouldn't be so hard to write, but the Bruins are local in these woods and there's the shadow of rah-rah for the home team and favoritism and Ben Howland thinking he's got you.
But it's hard to be delicate in this projection business when you're reasonably certain UCLA will defeat Florida tonight in the NCAA Tournament championship at the RCA Dome.
This is not to knock the Gators. There are no sarcastic asides coming, no put-downs on life in Gainesville.
I have no doubt Florida will represent itself well tonight. Will make it a tough, close, hard-fought game.
Which is exactly the kind of game UCLA has grown to excel at.
The Bruins have turned into a defensive beast this season, this postseason. They've had a team mind meld, turning into one head with 10 arms.
Their commitment to defense has raised their game, has given them confidence borne of a 12-game winning streak. A streak that has seen one opponent score more than 60 points.
The Gators like to go inside-out, those double-teams down low turning into open jumpers along the perimeter.
But Florida hasn't faced a team that plays such good help defense, that is as long and tough as the Bruins. They will cut off lanes, close more quickly on guards, disrupt the Florida attack.
Gators frontcourt star Joakim Noah has been an absolute terror throughout the tournament, averaging 16.2 points and 9.6 rebounds per game.
But 7-foot Ryan Hollins is also long, explosive and can match his athleticism. There is a plethora of help behind him with Lorenzo Mata and Alfred Aboya, and even centers Michael Fey and Ryan Wright, who have taken their turns starting.
The Gators love to run, but running against UCLA has been as difficult as having dinner with Jessica Alba (who dates a son of former Bruin Mike Warren). They hit the boards, are quick to loose balls, active all over the court.
When the fastbreaks became scarce against George Mason, the Gators struggled in their half-court game. And the Patriots don't play the same kind of defense as UCLA.
Which leads to one other interesting factor: the letters U-C-L-A.
The Bruins have lost once in their previous 12 trips to the championship game.
``I know they have great tradition ... but I don't think that helps you win the game (tonight),'' Noah said.
That sounds amazingly like what LSU's Glen Davis said prior to Saturday's semifinal, and whatever did happen to Davis and LSU?
There is a feeling of entitlement with the Bruins, that in a close game, can't be dismissed.
It will probably be close, and probably be title No. 12.
FACTORS IN BRUINS' FAVOR
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Apr 3, 2006|
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