SAN ANTONIO, Texas
Back in 2006, UCLA and Memphis met for the right to go to the Final Four. ¶ The Bruins won 50-45. Now, they're at it again but the stakes and stage are even bigger with the winner of tonight's semifinal showdown getting a shot at the national title. ¶ It's no coincidence that UCLA coach Ben Howland sees a couple of main "similarities" between the teams. Each has a first-team All-American, Chris Douglas-Roberts (Memphis) and Kevin Love (UCLA), and a third-team pick, Derrick Rose (Memphis) and Darren Collison (UCLA). Each relies on a freshman, Rose and Love. ¶ But there's a big difference that Memphis coach John Calipari couldn't help but recognize: While the two teams have combined for 11 titles, the Bruins have won all of them. ¶ "They should be more highly thought of than us," he said. "And I'm not saying that to downplay my program. We've won more games the last three years than anybody else. I know what we are, but we're still making statements about what we are and how we do it."
Do-everything junior Chris Douglas-Roberts and freshman Derrick Rose, who has elevated his game in the postseason, are potential NBA lottery picks. UCLA's Darren Collison can get to the rim or pull up from long range and is automatic at the line. Sophomore Russell Westbrook and junior Josh Shipp have been struggling from the field.
Memphis senior forward Joey Dorsey (6-9, 265) can be a rebounding and shot-blocking force a la Ben Wallace and junior forward Robert Dozier is also a staunch defender. UCLA's interior game begins with Kevin Love, who's averaging a double double (17.6 points, 10.7 rebounds). Junior forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, when healthy, seems to be around the ball constantly.
Point guard Willie Kemp, the starter last season for Memphis, and fellow sophomore Doneal Mack are solid 3-point shooters and must play more minutes with the suspension of Andre Allen. Sophomore forward Shawn Taggart had 12 points in the region final against Texas. UCLA centers Lorenzo Mata-Real, a 6-9 senior, and 6-8 junior Alfred Aboya have Final Four experience, while sophomore forward James Keefe had 18 points and 12 rebounds in the Sweet 16.
Memphis' John Calipari was on this stage in 1996 with UMass, losing to eventual national champion Kentucky in the semifinals. He does a lot more than recruit and roll the ball out there. Ben Howland has the Bruins in their third straight Final Four with the recipe of defense. The Bruins are ninth in scoring defense, allowing an average of 58.5 points.