I call UCLA-Missouri my "Get off my back Classic!"
That's right … both UCLA coach Steve Lavin and Missouri coach Quin Snyder have been criticized and ripped. Talk about two guys getting negative publicity and they both won 20 games! Before the season started, both schools were picked in the top 10 and guess what -- here they are, baby!
At UCLA, Lavin is the victim of all the success of the John Wooden era, and it is tough to follow. He has to live with that as a standard! All of those who came after Mr. Wooden have had the same problem. Think about what Lavin has accomplished over the last six seasons -- five trips to the Sweet 16! Mike Krzyzewski is the only other coach to accomplish that feat, so that really says something. Then again, they don't hang banners for the Sweet 16.
I give a slight edge to Missouri. The Tigers gave Duke a battle last year in the NCAA tournament and this team seems to be having so much fun.
There isn't a whole lot of excitement there at Pauley Pavilion unless you cut down the nets like Jim Harrick did in 1995 when Lavin was a young assistant. Take a look now and the Bruins have to ride the shoulders of their veterans. Matt Barnes and Billy Knight give UCLA versatility on the perimeter as they can pass the ball, make open shots and create problems with their multi-dimensional talents.
Dan Gadzuric is a true low post center who is so effective when getting the ball in deep. Just ask Cincinnati as he made 13 of 20 shots and he put up 26 points in the upset of the Bearcats.
Then again, UCLA is capable of beating anyone, so perhaps that shouldn't be called an upset.
Gadzuric should challenge Arthur Johnson in the point. Johnson has to neutralize him and establish himself in the post. This should be a war and the player who stays out of foul trouble will have the edge.
Jason Kapono has to stroke the trifecta; he scored only two points against Mississippi before finally getting it going against Cincinnati. When Kapono is on, with all of their weapons, the Bruins are tough to beat.
For Snyder's team to be successful, Kareem Rush and Clarence Gilbert have got to make threes. The Tigers need solid point guard out of Wesley Stokes when he comes off the bench.
Rickey Paulding has been a major asset on the wing, averaging 18 ppg. and 7.5 rpg while shooting 59 percent from the field so far in the tournament. He can neutralize Barnes and company.
I see this as a toss-up, a real Maalox masher! I give a slight edge to Missouri. The Tigers gave Duke a battle last year in the NCAA tournament and this team seems to be having so much fun. Missouri is really in rhythm and it is more than just Rush. The quality wins over Miami and Ohio State came because of fast starts, and uncle mo, the momentum is on the side of Mr. Snyder. This should be a special contest!