When the No. 11 Minnesota Golden Gophers and the No. 6 UCLA Bruins face each other later tonight, two of the NCAA‘s best coaches, Ben Howland and Tubby Smith, will be at the helm for each team. Smith won a national championship while coaching the Kentucky Wildcats in 1998. Howland led UCLA to a regular season title in the Pac-12.
Minnesota’s list of impressive wins this season includes victories against the Indiana Hoosiers, the Michigan State Spartans and the Illinois Fighting Illini. Although UCLA does not have as many quality wins as Minnesota, they did beat the Arizona Wildcats three times this season.
Minnesota may have the upper hand in this match-up. UCLA has other headlines, stemming around allegations that star freshman, Shabazz Muhammad, lied about his age. If this poses a distraction to the UCLA, then Minnesota may be advancing to the round of 32. UCLA’s quickness is one of their strengths. Freshman guard, Kyle Anderson, mans the power forward position though he is a perimeter player. Anderson averages of 9.8 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists are deceiving. Since Jordan Adams is gone for the season due to injury, everyone on UCLA’s roster has to elevate their play; particularly Muhammad and Anderson. Anderson’s 6’9″ 235 pound frame could pose a problem for Minnesota’s Rodney Williams and Trevor Mbakwe.
On the other hand, Minnesota excels at rebounding. They rank 17th overall in this category in the NCAA. This is one of Minnesota’s keys to winning this game, in addition to disrupting UCLA’s flow on offense. Pressuring UCLA’s guards would behoove Minnesota in this match-up.