UCLA Is All Business In Alamo City

By Josh Herwitt - April 04, 2008

SAN ANTONIO -- UCLA point guard Darren Collison is making his third straight appearance in the Final Four.

But while the Bruins ended both of their previous two runs to two-time national champ Florida, they won't have to worry about facing the Gators here in San Antonio.

Now after two years of disappointment on this same stage, it's just business as usual for Ben Howland's club.

"This is a business trip," the Third Team All-American Collison maintained before practice this afternoon. "It is not about the Final Four, it is about the Final One. We want to be the final one."

With a chance to hang a 12th banner in Pauley Pavilion, though, there certainly is some pressure on these Bruins to finally come away with a trophy on Monday night. After all, no UCLA team has ever gone to the Final Four two years in a row without taking home a title, and if Howland's team goes three straight years, there will certainly be some cries -- justified or not -- about the Bruins' April struggles.

"This is our third trip to the Final Four in a row and while we have 11 banners, there are non since 1995," explained First Team All-American and Pac-10 Player of the Year Kevin Love. "Going for our 12th puts a bulls-eye on us. We are trying not to think about it, but it's there."

As Love said, the Bruins are not hiding behind the reality of their situation, and it's even harder to with Saturday afternoon's national semifinal against a Memphis team that's overcome plenty of criticism nationwide and are ready to take an even greater step after missing out on the Final Four the past two years with tough losses in the Elite Eight.

"They're a great team," Howland said of the Tigers. "I think both teams are probably better than the last time we met two years ago, primarily because so many of the players in tomorrow's game played in that game and have had a couple years experience. Then each team has added great freshman...So it's going be a very tough game for us. They're just loaded with so many guys who can score in different ways. They like to really push the ball. They create a lot of havoc with their defense and a lot of offense from forcing turnovers and blocking shots."

"They are the best team we have seen this year," Love admitted. "They are 18-2 against ranked opponents. They have a number of great players. We will have to rebound and defend and do all the things Tennessee did to beat them."

That's because only the Vols knocked off Memphis this year, the lone loss that John Calipari's team suffered this year in a game where Tennessee dominated the glass and limited the Tigers' transition points.

"We have to play good transition defense, control the tempo, and limit their fast-break points," junior Josh Shipp offered. "They go for the gamble on defense so we need to stay in control of the tempo and not let them speed us up."

"We will have our hands full on both ends of the court," Collison added. "If we don't do what we are supposed to then they will capitalize on that. We have take on that challenge."

While Joey Dorsey will provide a challenge for Love down low with his physical, tough play, slowing down freshman point guard Derrick Rose could pose the biggest test for the Bruins down the stretch.

"For what he has done as a freshman, it has been phenomenal," Collison remarked. "To be a point guard and lead your team to the Final Four in your first year is a real accomplishment."

So is taking your team to three straight Final Fours, but for Collison and the Bruins, it's only really just begun.

Posted by Josh Herwitt at 01:09 PM on April 04, 2008

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