Sunday, November 18, 2007

ACC Game of the Week (11/18-11/25) - Maryland vs. #2 UCLA

This week's big game takes us to Kansas City, Missouri for the O'Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic matchup between #2 ranked UCLA and Maryland. By the way, does it seem like anyone can sponsor one of these basketball tournaments? I can't wait for the day I'm watching the Gebco Classic (Baltimore, MD) on ESPN and I see this commecial Go Gebco! Disclaimer: If that's not funny to you there is something wrong with you, not me. Anyways, while UCLA appears to be the superior team they are without All-Pac 10 point guard Darren Collison and Maryland's James Gist is averaging a more than respectable 21.5 ppg and 8.5 rbg. While these two players play large roles for their team clearly most of the hype going in is on National Freshman of the Year candidate Kevin Love and deservedly so. The highly ranked freshman is averaging a 20.7 points and 10.3 rebounds in his first three games but this will be his first test against big time basketball competition. Unfortunately for Kevin, Gary Williams has assembled a front line at Maryland that is a bit more competitive than those of his first three opponents (Portland State, Youngstown State, and San Bernardino). Bambale Osby, Jerome Burney, Braxton Dupree, and the aforementioned Gist will prove to be too much for Love and frontcourt partner Lorenzo Mata. Gist is the best athlete either team has inside. Advantage Murlin!

In the backcourt the situation gets a bit more interesting. UCLA will come out with with Russell Westbrook at point guard with smooth Josh Shipp at the two and big time Luc Richard Mbah a Moute running the 3 spot. Westbrook and Shipp have Final Four game experience and loads of talent. Both will get paid in full to play basketball in the near future. Their athleticism and skill set could pose a problem for Maryland's backcourt. Pretty much, Maryland likes to play a lot of man to man and I don't think their point guard Eric Hayes can't check Westbrook, end of story. On the flip side Westbrook doesn't seem that comfortable on the free throw line, which might come back to haunt him in a game that should be close at the end. Hayes is a 93% free throw shooter. Moving to the wing it is fairly evident that Josh Shipp might be the best basketball player on the court at tip off. He's a cerebral basketball player that can get off his shot whenever he wants. To add to UCLA's fire Mbah a Moute is also a very intelligent player. He made a few passes last week that were ridiculous (the good ridiculous). Mbah a Moute doesn't have the ball handling to help as much on the perimeter but he will certainly help on the glass. Advantage Bruins.

My x-factor for this game is Maryland two guard Greivis Vasquez. I'm willing to bet he is one of the few college players averaging over 16 point a game to also put up almost 7 assists and 6 boards a contest as well. Vasquez is a dynamic player and his energy gets his team into the game. He can create this frenzied environment that invigorates his teammates and fans. In college basketball this is huge. I wrote 3 paragraphs about this game and now I'm realizing I only need one sentence. If Vasquez plays big, Maryland wins. Unfortunately I think Shipp's defense will be too much for him and as a result, UCLA will win. Feel free to call me out if you disagree. I'd do it to you.

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