UCLA: Three Keys to Success Over Gonzaga

UCLA Bruins
UCLA Bruins /

UCLA Bruins

The UCLA Bruins have not failed to surprise both fans and critics ever since they were chosen to compete in the NCAA tournament. Chosen as a bubble team, it is no surprise that most people had the Bruins losing after their match-up against SMU, but contrary to popular belief, the Bruins ruined many brackets when they were able to take home a victory. Not only were they able to beat SMU, but they also have managed to take down UAB for a second time and earn themselves a spot in the Sweet Sixteen. The only concern now is: will they be able to take down the Gonzaga Bulldogs?

The last time we saw the Bruins play against Gonzaga it was a rough game. The score was only tied once and the Bruins never even claimed a lead. Gonzaga finished with a 58.5 total FG percentage by the end of the game, leaving UCLA in the dust with a 41.7%. It was quite sad.

That being said, this game was back in December and the guys have come a very long way since then. They have a chance at taking down Gonzaga, they just have to come through on the basics.

1. Focus on the interior.

If they can win the battle in the paint, they have a shot. If Norman Powell and Tony Parker can be on their game, we should have no problem in this category.  If we can see some “Ka-POWELL” dunks and some legendary slams from Parker, we can get some points. Speaking of shots, our guys are shooting 51% from the 3-point range. If they have a hot hand early in the game they may be able to use the outside shot to get an edge on offense. If Bryce Alford keeps shooting the way he’s been shooting the past few games, he can really help the Bruins out.

2. Focus on man-to-man defense.

Mar 23, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs center Przemek Karnowski (24) shoots over Arizona Wildcats center Kaleb Tarczewski (35) in the second half of a men

There is a clear reason why Gonzaga is the number one rated team for field goals and that flows greatly with the fact that they are also rated number six in assists. This means that they not only pass the ball well, but always find an open man who can shoot. So maybe this means that the Bruins should focus on man-to-man defense. They should never run the zone against this team because that leaves shooters open. Gonzaga lost twice this year. Both times they had some of their worst shooting performances of the year. Against BYU on Feb. 28, they shot just 43% and only 37% from 3-point; far below their average. Against Arizona on December 6 they were worse. They shot only 39% from the field and 23% from 3-point land. That’s a key then to beating Gonzaga, playing good enough defense to disrupt their shooting. When they don’t shoot well, they lose.

3. Teamwork.

Our Bruins play best when they are playing together. Unfortunately we are an inconsistent team individually and don’t have one superstar, but several. Since we cannot just rely on one of our guys, they need to rely on each other to play their role and play as one in order to win. Against UAB last week, all 5 starters scored double digits, proving they are well-rounded as a scoring team. They don’t need to rely on one player to win, they need to rely on each other and coming together with the common goal of pulling off the upset.

If the Bruins have made it this far and surprised many with their talent, they can do it again on Friday. I wonder how many brackets will fall apart if the Bruins can take the W to the Elite 8!