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April 4, 2008

Who has the edge: UCLA vs. Memphis

VIDEO: UCLA vs. Memphis video preview | MORE: Rivals.com NCAA Tourney Central

Rivals.com college basketball writer Andrew Skwara breaks down the national semifinal matchup between Memphis and UCLA.

MEMPHIS (37-1) VS. UCLA (35-3), 6:07 p.m.
Russell Westbrook vs. Derrick Rose
EDGE: Memphis UCLA likely will use the 6-foot-3 Westbrook as the primary defender on the 6-3 Rose, who would have a big size advantage over UCLA's Darren Collison (6-1, 165 pounds). Westbrook, a sophomore, was the Pac-10 defensive player of the year, but slowing the Tigers' freshman phenom will be a difficult task. No guard may have a better combination of speed and strength than Rose. Powerfully built, Rose has been projected as the No. 2 pick in June's NBA draft. He excels at attacking the basket off the dribble and creating offense. He prefers to pass, but can finish around the basket or pull up for mid-range jumpers. The same goes for Westbrook, who splits point-guard duties with Collison and leads the Bruins in assists.
Josh Shipp vs. Chris Douglas-Roberts
EDGE: Memphis Douglas-Roberts, a lanky 6-7 junior, is Memphis' leading scorer at 17.7 points per game and he has been even better in the NCAA Tournament. He has averaged 22.5 points through the first four rounds. Armed with a variety of floaters, leaners and other tricky shots, the savvy CDR does most of his damage in the mid-range area. The 6-5 Shipp, a fourth-year junior, is a solid defender who can play multiple positions. Shipp also is a scoring threat, averaging 12.3 points. However, he has fallen into a recent shooting slump, having made just two of his past 17 (11.7 percent) 3-point attempts.
Darren Collison vs. Antonio Anderson
EDGE: UCLA Look for Collison to spend most of his time on defense matching up with Anderson, a 6-6 junior. Anderson will have a considerable size advantage, but unlike the Tigers' other two starting guards, he doesn't look to create his own shot much. He's the Tigers' glue guy, playing multiple roles and rarely making mistakes. He owns a stellar 2.7-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio the highest of any player in the Final Four. Collison is among the fastest players in college basketball and has made the Bruins far more dangerous in transition. Collison also has developed into a major 3-point threat, knocking down a remarkable 53 percent of his 3-pointers this season. He shoots his best off the dribble.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute vs. Robert Dozier
EDGE: Memphis Both of these junior power forwards handle a lot of the dirty work for their teams. Each is counted on primarily for defense and rebounding, and each generates most of his offense off putbacks and broken plays. The lanky 6-9 Dozier is a major shot-blocking threat, swatting away 1.8 shots per game. The 6-8 Mbah a Moute has the edge in experience, having started in the past two Final Fours. He also can hit the occasional jump shot from 15 feet.
Kevin Love vs. Joey Dorsey
EDGE: UCLA The Bruins are built around the 6-10, 270-pound Love, one of the nation's top big men. After capturing Pac-10 player of the year honors, the freshman has raised his level of play in the NCAA Tournament. Love has averaged 21.7 points, 11 rebounds and 4.2 blocks through the first four rounds. But Love, who has range that extends beyond the 3-point line, never has faced anyone quite like Dorsey. The Memphis standout packs great strength and leaping ability into a muscular 6-9 frame and plays with a nasty streak. Dorsey isn't much of a scoring threat, but he's a great shot blocker and a big force on the glass. Look for Love and the Bruins to attack Dorsey early in an effort to land him in foul trouble.
EDGE: Memphis This is the area where Memphis has the biggest advantage. Despite the recent suspension of backup point guard Andre Allen, the Tigers still have good depth at every position. Willie Kemp (5.3 ppg) started 36 games at point guard last season. Shooting guard Doneal Mack (7.2 ppg) has a penchant for scoring points in a hurry. Iowa State transfer Shawn Taggart (6-10, 230 pounds) has a soft shooting touch and can play at power forward or center. UCLA doesn't have a reserve who can be counted on for offense. The Bruins also don't have a guard who can come off the bench and give Westbrook and Collison breathers.
EDGE: UCLA Memphis' John Calipari deserves more credit than he gets. The Tigers are a great defensive team and Calipari installed a unique penetrate-and-kick style of offense three seasons ago that has been an ideal fit for his athletic squad. Calipari also is one of just three coaches to guide two schools to No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament (North Carolina's Roy Williams and Kansas' Bill Self who will square off in the other semifinal are the other two). Still, no coach may have an edge over Howland at the moment. This is Howland's third consecutive trip to the Final Four, a remarkable accomplishment considering the Bruins lost first-round picks in 2006 and '07. Howland is one of the best defensive minds in the game and assuredly will have some wrinkles ready to slow the Tigers' offense. UCLA beat Memphis 50-45 in the West Regional final in 2006.
UCLA has a big edge in experience. The Bruins' roster is filled with players who know how to handle the pressure of the Final Four. But Memphis is playing better at the moment. The Tigers beat Michigan State and Texas by a combined 36 points in the South Regional. Moreover, Rose looked unstoppable in those games and will cause problems regardless of who guards him. The Tigers also can use their depth to wear down the Bruins. UCLA must focus on getting Dorsey into foul trouble. That will open space on the inside for Love. But perhaps more than anything, the Bruins need Collison and Shipp to shoot the ball well. Collison was 9-for-33 (27.2 percent) from the field in the Bruins' three losses this season.
Memphis 78, UCLA 73

VIDEO: UCLA vs. Memphis video preview | MORE: Rivals.com NCAA Tourney Central

Andrew Skwara is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at askwara@rivals.com.

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