NBA Notre Dame Fighting Irish

NBA Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Our next team is one of the most successful college basketball programs to never win a national championship. They’ve made 35 NCAA tournament appearances, and currently rank ninth ever in all-time wins. While they’ve never climbed the mountaintop in college hoops, they’ve produced a handful of players who’ve had success in the NBA, including a couple of multiple-time NBA champions. While they’re not elite, the NBA Notre Dame Fighting Irish team is a fun mix of offensively talented players who should be a tough out in our tournament.

Notre Dame has several options in the backcourt, and will start off without a traditional point guard in their starting lineup. Mr. Cavalier, Austin Carr, was a one-time all-star who averaged over 20 points per game in each of the first three seasons of his career. Although injuries derailed him, he was an explosive scorer, and excelled from the mid-range and in. He’ll be asked to take on more ball handling duties on this team, and will have to look for teammates more than he was typically accustomed to. Kelly Tripucka will join him in the starting backcourt. Tripucka was a natural small forward, but his shooting touch was his forte, and allowed him to average over 20 points per game five times in his career. He had the ideal height for a shooting guard (6’6”), though not the ideal quickness, so he’ll have to punish opponents on the offensive end of the floor to be effective. John Paxson, the team’s most natural point guard, will see a lot of time off the bench, and will allow Carr and Tripucka to slide to their natural positions when they share the floor together. Paxson and Tripucka are two examples of this team’s dangerous three-point shooting attack, which will be needed as they try to outscore their opponents.

Adrian Dantley, the standout offensive weapon on this roster, will start at small forward. Dantley led the league in scoring twice during a stretch of four straight seasons where he averaged over 30 points per game. Known for his devastating post-up game despite his modest height (6’5”), Dantley was a master of efficiency, currently ranking sixth all-time in NBA/ABA true shooting percentage. In addition to his excellent shooting from the field (54 percent), Dantley also led the league in made free throws five times, and was one of the more unique offensive players in league history. He’ll be paired up in the starting lineup with 6’9” Orlando Woolridge, another standout scorer who is far and away this team’s best athlete. Woolridge may not have fulfilled his immense potential as a pro, but, when motivated, he was an efficient, explosive scorer. The starting center, Bill Laimbeer, was best known for his thuglike tactics with the Bad Boy Pistons. He was more than just an agitator, however; he was also an elite rebounder who could spread the floor on offense. Laimbeer and Dantley can play an inverted inside-out game that will be difficult for any opponent to stop, especially with talented scorers surrounding them in the lineup.

Off the bench, there are a plethora of forwards who bring different strengths to the table. Donald Royal was a rotation player on the great Orlando teams in the 1990s, and had the ideal frame of a modern day wing player (6’8”, 210 lb). LaPhonso Ellis was a hybrid forward who was an inefficient high volume scorer on the 1990s Nuggets teams, but was a solid offensive rebounder who could cause matchup problems when not serving as an offensive focal point. Bill Hanzlik was a solid defensive wing who made the All-NBA Defensive Second Team in the 1985-86 season. Expect him to earn a large role in the rotation as perhaps the only plus defender on the roster. Tom Hawkins was a contributor to three NBA finalists in the 1960s. Pat Garrity was a good shooter who contributed little else, and will likely join Hawkins as permanent bench fixtures who only enter games in garbage time. Troy Murphy will serve as the de facto backup center. Murphy was an excellent shooter and rebounder who averaged a double-double five times in his solid career. He’s the bench’s most effective weapon, and will play alongside Laimbeer when they face bigger frontcourts.

The NBA Notre Dame Fighting Irish team will have no trouble scoring the ball, with a mix of talented shooters surrounding their efficient small forward. They will struggle mightily on defense, however, and will have to outscore opponents to have a chance to succeed. As the 25th seeded team in our tournament, they have an intriguing first-round matchup with the eighth seeded NBA Louisville Cardinals team.

NBA Louisville Cardinals

NBA Louisville Cardinals

Our next profile features alums from an annual contender that is one of the most successful programs in college basketball history. Although they rank in the top 10 in NCAA championships, Final Four appearances, NCAA tournament appearances, and NCAA tournament wins, their players have been more solid than spectacular in the pros. The NBA Louisville Cardinals team has a mix of glue guys who can be expected to compete hard, but will ultimately have a hard time challenging the more talented teams in our tournament.

The lead guard position will be split between Butch Beard and Jim Price. Both players were similar in stature (listed heights of 6’3”) and in career accomplishments, having both made one all-star appearance in their prime. Beard was a more efficient player who played a key role on the 1974-75 world champion Warriors, while Price used his ballhawking skills to make the All-NBA Defensive 2nd team the previous year. Both are solid, but are best suited for complementary roles. Dr. Dunkenstein, Darrell Griffith, is the team’s starting two guard. Griffith was a voluminous and oftentimes spectacular scorer, who averaged 21.0 points per game for the first five years of his career before a foot injury derailed his prime. He also was a competent three-point shooter, shooting a league-leading 36.1 percent (not a misprint – that actually led the league) in the 1983-84 season. He’ll serve as the team’s best scorer, and their best chance of generating halfcourt offense. Derek Smith and Francisco Garcia will spell Griffith for stretches, and play alongside him in three-guard lineups. Smith put up impressive numbers on unimpressive Clippers and Kings teams in the 1980s. He peaked in the 1984-85 campaign, when he averaged 22 points per game on 54 percent shooting from the field. Garcia was a deep shooting threat whose strengths are highlighted here; he’ll serve as a valuable cog off the bench.

Junior Bridgeman is another solid wing who will occupy one of the starting forward positions. Although he is best known for being one of the principals in the deal that sent Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to the Lakers (and recently, for his outrageous net worth), he was a spectacular sixth man for the talented Bucks teams of the late 70s to early 80s. He’ll fit in nicely alongside any of the other wing players, and will serve as the second scoring option for most of the lineups he’ll be a part of. Rodney McCray was a versatile weapon who could toggle between either forward position. He was a productive passer and excellent defender, making all-NBA defensive teams in 1987 and 1988. Off the bench, Jack Coleman was a two-time champion and one-time all-star in the 1950s. He nearly averaged a double-double for his career, and although he won’t be expected to replicate his success on the boards against the bigger, more athletic players in the modern game, he should be able to carve out minutes on this roster.

The starting center, Wes Unseld, is the most accomplished player on the roster. One of the toughest players in league history, Unseld overcame his relatively short stature to average 14 rebounds per game throughout his career. His outlet passing was the stuff of legends, as was his screen-setting, two subtle nuances of the game that affect winning, despite not showing up in the box score. He’s the embodiment of this NBA Louisville Cardinals team: the ultimate glue guy, who, despite his limitations, works to make others better and to help his team succeed. He’s backed up by a trio of big men. Pervis Ellison and Gorgui Dieng can play alongside Unseld against bigger opponents. Although Ellison was derided as a draft bust, he peaked as a 20-10 guy in the 1992 season, and was an effective shot blocker in his time in the league. Dieng is a solid defender who can also protect the rim. He is a solid mid-range shooter as well, who’s extending his range each year, which will help to open up the floor, especially when he gets paired with the space-clogging Unseld. Felton Spencer is the biggest player on the roster, who will play sparingly but can provide six extra fouls if facing a dominant center.

The NBA Louisville Cardinals are solid, scrappy, and physical. What they lack in high-end talent, they should make up for in versatility and effort. While they aren’t expected to advance far in the NBA March Madness Tournament, they’ll be a difficult match up for any opponent in the field.

NBA Syracuse Orange vs. NBA Arizona Wildcats

Size versus speed. Our next match represents a classic stylistic battle. One team starts a traditional lineup with a seven-footer, flanked by a massive power forward and a “small” forward who weighs 240 pounds. The other team starts no traditional power players, substituting shooting ability and lineup flexibility for size and strength. Which team will enforce their will upon the other? The battle between the NBA Syracuse Orange vs. NBA Arizona Wildcats represents a clash of basketball philosophies.

NBA Syracuse Orange vs. NBA Arizona Wildcats

Key Matchups

Richard Jefferson and Sean Elliott vs. Derrick Coleman – This series may hinge on which team’s forwards adapt better defensively. Arizona will go key stretches of each game hoping to survive with Richard Jefferson guarding Derrick Coleman. Conversely, Coleman will have to get comfortable guarding the perimeter and switching defensively on to smaller, quicker players. How badly will Coleman punish the smaller Wildcats on the block? Can Arizona expose DC on the perimeter and force Syracuse to downsize? Coleman may be better served defensively playing as the five in the series, since…

Rony Seikaly vs. perimeter shooting – …this matchup isn’t going to work out defensively for Syracuse. Seikaly is ill-equipped to extend his defense out to the perimeter, and would be toast when Arizona runs pick and pop with one of their perimeter options and Channing Frye. Syracuse can counter by posting Seikaly up and trying to get Frye into foul trouble, so Arizona can bring in more traditional big men off the bench. This adjustment may also have to occur if and when Syracuse punishes Arizona on the glass, as detailed below.

Two-point field goals vs. Three-point field goals – The game of basketball has evolved to the point that one team is currently averaging over 40 three-point field goal attempts per game in the 2016-17 season (Houston). The three point shot has become the most important weapon in the sport. Expect Arizona to run wild from behind the arc, while Syracuse will try to keep pace with a more traditional offensive attack.

Biggest Mismatches

Syracuse’s rebounding advantage – Arizona is dead in the water in any game where their threes aren’t falling, because Syracuse should own them on the offensive and defensive boards. Seikaly and Coleman were excellent rebounders, which can’t be said for anybody in Arizona’s starting lineup. Arizona has two options to stop the bleeding on the glass: Jordan Hill, a tenacious rebounder with a limited offensive and defensive skill set, and Bison Dele, a less tenacious rebounder who was very skilled offensively and could make the Syracuse big men work defensively. Both players will see a lot of time, but Dele will be particularly busy as Arizona’s sole threatening post-up option. Unless they play together, Syracuse will see plenty of second and third shot opportunities on offense, and will limit Arizona’s attempts on the other end of the court.

Arizona’s three-point advantage – Each team has a clear path to victory. If Syracuse can slow the pace and make this a half-court battle, Dave Bing, Carmelo Anthony, and their superior rebounders should make them victorious. Arizona will play uptempo, and bomb from long-range with Jason Terry, Mike Bibby, Channing Frye, Gilbert Arenas, Sean Elliott, Damon Stoudamire, and the NBA’s all-time leader in three-point field goal percentage Steve Kerr leading the charge. If several of these players are knocking down their shots, Syracuse will have a difficult time keeping up.

Arizona’s depth – Arizona has quality depth throughout their bench, and will use a variety of options each game. Several of their bench players, such as Mike Bibby and Sean Elliott, are as good as the players who start above them, and they’ll utilize a hot-hand approach throughout the matchup. Syracuse has a clear drop off whenever they turn to their inferior second unit. Expect Danny Schayes and Billy Owens to earn the bulk of their bench minutes, with the other players mixing in as needed, but Syracuse’s starting lineup will carry a heavy burden in each game.

X-Factor

Evolution of NBA basketball – One key aspect of this tournament is that modern-day rules are in effect. This should be a huge advantage for Arizona, who will benefit from less hand-checking on the perimeter on offense, and more creative ways to guard post players on defense. Non-traditional, smaller lineups are also in vogue, though certain teams, including the incomparable Spurs, manage to thrive with traditional, bigger lineups.

Results

Throughout their history, Syracuse Orange alums have been sporadically successful in the NBA, and have underachieved relative to their success in college. While the school has produced two hall-of-fame players (Bing and Anthony), the rest of their roster is littered with underachievers and players who are not necessarily suited for the modern game. Arizona, led by the defensive mastery of Andre Iguodala, and an overabundance of three-point firepower, moves on to the second round.

Wildcats win, four games to two.

Next Round

Arizona faces the NBA UCLA Bruins.

NBA Arizona Wildcats

NBA Arizona Wildcats

Our next team was built for the modern era of professional basketball. What they lack in size, they make up for in shooting, ball handling, and spacing. Even though they lack the Hall-of-Fame caliber talent that some of their competitors boast, the NBA Arizona Wildcats are fun, dynamic, and a dangerous threat to advance in our tournament.

This team has more ball handlers than they know what to do with. Gilbert Arenas, the team’s leading scorer on a points per game basis, will start at the lead guard position. From 2005 to 2007, Arenas had a dominant three-year stretch where he averaged 27.7 PPG and 5.7 APG, with a 23.0 PER and three all-star and all-NBA appearances. He served as the fulcrum of high-scoring offensive teams who made the playoffs in each of those seasons. While his reputation was irreparably damaged by his later antics, he’s a dominant scorer who can work as a primary option in this offense. He’s joined in the starting backcourt by another explosive scorer, Jason Terry, who’s currently third all-time in made three point field goals. He’ll split time playing off of the ball and setting up the offense, and can play alongside any of the team’s other backcourt options. Off the bench, Mike Bibby was known for his clutch play and deft shooting. He was a steady floor leader who nearly led Sacramento to a title in 2002, when he increased his scoring average from 13.7 in the regular season to 20.3 in the playoffs. Damon Stoudamire was a slick playmaker who was most effective with the ball in his hands. With the glut of point guards on this roster, and his lack of size (listed height of 5’10”) he’s likely to play less than the others, but there will be little drop off when he suits up. Steve Kerr, the league’s all-time leader in three-point field goal percentage, will help to space the floor out even further.

Andre Iguodala, the starting small forward, may be the most indispensable player on the roster. Iguodala will always guard the opposing team’s best perimeter offensive option, and he’ll also help to set up the offense so the team’s shooters can play off of the ball and spread the floor. Richard Jefferson and Sean Elliott will split time alongside Iguodala. Jefferson’s athleticism and bulk (230 pounds) will help him against bigger opponents, while Elliott will be better served playing his natural small forward role. These two have remarkably similar statistical profiles, and both help to boost the team’s athleticism and lineup flexibility. Chris Mills was another natural small forward who spent some time at the four in his career, despite his smaller stature. He benefited greatly from the league moving the three-point line in from 1995 to 1997 (shooting 38.7% from deep during those years, versus 31.0% the rest of his career), so he’ll play sparingly behind the other forward options.

Channing Frye is the rare ‘stretch five’ who will start off as the team’s starting center. Although he was a decent shotblocker in his prime, his lack of rebounding is a glaring weakness, and his shooting range is less necessary on a team with so many outside options. He’ll be frequently spelled by the late Bison Dele, a nifty inside scoring threat who can provide instant offense off the bench, and Jordan Hill, the team’s best rebounder who may be asked to stretch beyond his normal limits (career 18.9 minutes per game).

The NBA Arizona Wildcats should be a joy to watch, and can play with many different lineup configurations. Their lack of rebounding and interior defense, however, limits their ceiling. They have an intriguing first-round match up with a team that’s their complete opposite, with an imposing frontcourt and a lack of long-range options.

NBA Syracuse Orange

NBA Syracuse Orange

Our next school has produced a volatile mix of NBA talent. While they’ve produced two Hall-of-Fame caliber players, a high percentage of their draftees have not reached the heights they were originally projected for. While their long-standing coach, Jim Boeheim, is a college basketball titan, his track record of preparing players for the NBA has been spotty. Overall, the NBA Syracuse Orange team is flawed, but their Hall-of-Fame duo gives them a fighting chance to advance in our tournament.

Sherman Douglas, the starting point guard, had a solid 12-year career as a floor general for a string of also-rans in the 1990s. However, he was undersized for his position (6’0”), and did not have three-point shooting range, which limits his value to this team. His backcourt mate, Hall-of-Famer Dave Bing, could do it all on the offensive end of the court. He played both guard positions, and led the league in total points in his second season, which started a four-year stretch where he averaged 25.2 PPG and 6.1 APG. An eye injury limited his availability in the 1972 season, and he was never quite the same scorer afterwards, but his playmaking skills were sharp as ever, leading to him averaging 7.4 APG over the next three seasons. Ideally, his drive and kick ability would be complemented by a great shooter, but this team is lacking in that department. Michael Carter-Williams, the backup point guard, has been a woeful outside shooter throughout his short career, which has unfortunately overshadowed his many positive attributes. His length is an asset on the defensive end of the court, another area where this team may struggle, which should create a prominent role for him in the rotation. Dion Waiters is the team’s most prolific three-point threat, but he has yet to find any consistency over his five-year career.

The starting forwards, Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Coleman, are two of the more talented players at their positions. Anthony is one of the great scorers in the modern game, and can toggle between both forward positions. He’s been burdened by his lack of playoff success, but he’ll serve as this team’s go-to option down the stretch of games, where he’s thrived throughout his career. Coleman, the first overall pick in the 1990 draft, had a solid if unspectacular career, in spite of his immense talent. He had every skill you could possibly want from a big man, but never put it all together on a consistent basis. He did make two all-NBA teams (in 1993 and 1994), and could punish smaller players in the post when motivated. Off the bench, Billy Owens was a versatile wing who had his best seasons early in his career. While largely regarded as a draft bust, he averaged 15.0 PPG, 7.9 RPG, and 3.4 APG on 51.3% shooting in the first three seasons of his career, before having limited success thereafter. Louis Orr and Hakim Warrick were limited forwards who don’t move the needle for this team.

While Syracuse will go long stretches with Coleman at center and Anthony at power forward, they will start each game off with Rony Seikaly manning the middle next to this duo. Seikaly was a voracious rebounder who doubled as a solid scorer in his prime. He’s backed up by Danny Schayes, who had an interminable career mainly as a solid backup. He experienced his best years with Denver from 1988 to 1990, where he toggled between power forward and center and accumulated impressive advanced statistics, including a 62.7% three-year true shooting percentage and .172 win shares per 48 minutes. Etan Thomas will serve as the emergency third center when the others get into foul trouble.

One may expect the NBA Syracuse Orange to be better based on their college success. While they have a large number of players who haven’t panned out in the NBA, they have several stalwarts who will have to assume a large burden for them to get by their first round opponent.

NBA UCLA Bruins vs. NBA Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Sometimes, you have to find beauty in a matchup even when the final result is inevitable. The NBA UCLA Bruins vs. NBA Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets is a mismatch, due to the brilliance of UCLA’s roster. However, Georgia Tech has some unique lineup combinations they can throw out to confound the more talented Bruins. Can they use their quickness and shooting to steal a game or two in this series? Or will UCLA brush them aside on their quest toward the championship? Here’s how the series will play out.

NBA UCLA Bruins vs. NBA Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Key Matchup

UCLA’s two-center lineup versus Georgia’s Tech’s frontcourt – UCLA has a massive Twin Towers lineup, featuring 7’2” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and the 7’0” plus Bill Walton, whose listed height of 6’11” was known to be a gross underestimation. Georgia Tech will start each game off with a traditional power forward, Derrick Favors, and an undersized center, Chris Bosh. They also have a solid defender in John Salley coming off the bench, along with their biggest player, 7’0” Matt Geiger. However, none of these players realistically has a chance to stop either Jabbar or Walton. What can Georgia Tech do to make it interesting? They can play Thaddeus Young together with Bosh, and just try to outquick the UCLA duo on the offensive end of the court. Or they can play four perimeter players around Bosh and force one of UCLA’s centers to defend out to the three-point line. Georgia Tech will have to be creative, since playing UCLA straight up is a losing proposition.

Biggest Mismatches

UCLA’s size – The reason Georgia Tech will have to be creative is because they don’t have the personnel to even bother UCLA’s centers. Walton will be able to see over the top of his defenders in the high post, while Jabbar will face little resistance scoring inside and out. The big men will be staggered so each is paired with Kevin Love, who will provide a unique combination of spacing and rebounding on the offensive end, and Sidney Wicks, whose quickness and athleticism will help him on the defensive end of the court against Georgia Tech’s perimeter-oriented options. Outside of Bosh, Georgia Tech’s big men are more pedestrian than spectacular, and they don’t have the size or skill to compete.

Georgia Tech’s small ball – Since UCLA’s two best players are traditional centers, expect Georgia Tech to do everything possible to get them off of the court. Play Mark Price, Stephon Marbury, Jon Barry, and Dennis Scott alongside Chris Bosh, to have a three-point threat at every position? Sure! Try to utilize a breakneck pace to take advantage of the ball-handling skills of Marbury, Kenny Anderson, and Jarrett Jack? Absolutely! There’s no reason why this team can’t be entertaining, even if they’re getting blown out in the process.

UCLA’s star power – Despite these theatrics, UCLA has a Hall-of-Fame-caliber player at every position in their starting lineup, and all-star level talent from one through 12. If Georgia Tech wants to get into a three-point shooting contest, UCLA’s Reggie Miller, Gail Goodrich, Kiki Vandeweghe, and Kevin Love would likely make that a losing proposition. Get in an up tempo battle, and the irrepressible Russell Westbrook will attack with Marques Johnson, Jamaal Wilkes, and those wonderful shooters at his disposal. Jabbar and Walton will doom them in the halfcourt game. There are no good options for Georgia Tech.

X-Factor

Jabbar and Walton – Two of the greatest centers ever facing a team with only one seven footer on its roster (the replacement-level Matt Geiger)? Goodnight.

Results

Georgia Tech has some funky lineup configurations, and the underappreciated Price and Bosh, but this one was over before it started.

UCLA wins, four games to none.

Next Round

UCLA faces the winner of the Syracuse Orange vs. Arizona Wildcats in the second round of our tournament.

NBA Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

NBA Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Our next profile details a team that has been an also-ran for much of its existence. They’ve made two Final Four appearances, but have only finished in the AP top 25 eight times in history. Despite these hardships, they’ve produced a steady stream of NBA talent since their rise under Bobby Cremins in the 1980s. While the NBA Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets are the lowest-ranked team in our tournament, they field an entertaining roster full of playmakers and shooters.

Mark Price, one of two point guards in the starting lineup, was a player who was ahead of his time. He was one of the greatest shooters in NBA history, who played with remarkable efficiency. The greatest shooting point guards of the modern era have become multiple MVPs (Steve Nash and Stephen Curry), and provide a template for how Price could be utilized in the modern-day game. He’s joined in the backcourt by Stephon Marbury. While his negatives are well-known, he peaked as a talented offensive force who is one of only five players to average over 19.0 points and 7.0 assists per game for his career (joined by Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson, Isiah Thomas, and Russell Westbrook). While he’s an awkward fit alongside another point guard, his penetration skills should blend well with Price’s shooting. Kenny Anderson is a similarly talented point guard who will come off the bench and mirror much of what Marbury brings to the starting lineup. Anderson dominated the ball less than Marbury (with a career 21.3% usage percentage versus Marbury’s 25.4%), and will replace Marbury whenever the offense is not flowing. Jarrett Jack will play sparingly as the fourth point guard on the roster. Jon Barry, the lone pure shooting guard on the roster, provides valuable long-distance shooting with noteworthy efficiency (once finishing second in the league with a 64.5% true shooting percentage).

Matt Harpring and Dennis Scott will split time at small forward. Harpring was a solid player who moved well without the ball and had an effective mid-range game. Scott, on the other hand, was a long-range bomber who is best known for playing off of a dominant center (Shaquille O’Neal in Orlando). Both are useful role players who will contribute to their offensive attack. Derrick Favors and Thaddeus Young will share minutes at power forward. Favors is a traditional four who will help them compete on the glass while protecting the paint. Young is a smaller, quicker player who boosts their athleticism and provides a different look against bigger players.

Chris Bosh, an 11-time all-star selection, is the team’s starting center. Bosh was a mid-range master throughout his career who developed a three-point shot over time. He served as the fulcrum of Toronto’s offense before adapting as a third option in Miami, where his solid all-around game helped them win two titles in four Finals appearances. He doesn’t have the bulk of a traditional center, but his quickness is a tremendous asset on both ends of the court. He’s backed up by John Salley, a solid defender who won four titles in his career, and Matt Geiger, a fiery, athletic big man who excelled on the offensive glass.

The NBA Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets are a fun, balanced team who opponents will have difficulty defending. They can field an elite shooting lineup featuring Price, Barry, Scott, and Bosh, and should utilize their athleticism and quickness to play an up-tempo game. While they face a tall task in their first-round matchup, the success of their NBA talent should be celebrated.

NBA UCLA Bruins

NBA UCLA Bruins

Our first profile details the top seed in our tournament, the NBA UCLA Bruins. Overall, 88 players from UCLA have played in the NBA, six of whom have been inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. They also feature arguably the two greatest players in college basketball history, who both went on to become an NBA Most Valuable Player and the best player on a championship team. With a mix of dynamic playmakers, long-range shooters, and unstoppable low-post forces, they field one of the best and deepest rosters in our field.

Russell Westbrook, the starting point guard, may be the most dynamic player in the current NBA. In addition to his triple-double exploits, Westbrook’s best attribute is his ability to get to the rim, and draw the defense with him. He’ll create many opportunities for his backcourt mate, Reggie Miller, who was one of the greatest shooters in NBA history. At 6’7”, Miller had the ideal height for a shooting guard, and both he and Westbrook will have to use their length and athleticism on both ends of the floor, instead of solely concentrating on offense. They’re backed up by Baron Davis, an erratic point guard whose talent was often overshadowed by his poor decision-making, and Gail Goodrich, a Hall-of-Famer who played both guard positions. Expect Goodrich to serve as the primary backup for both starting guards, and Davis to be used sparingly due to the depth on the roster.

Marques Johnson, one of the more underrated players in NBA lore, will start at small forward. Johnson was a tremendously efficient player in his prime, who also exceled on the glass for his position. While he was not a three-point threat, he was a master from the midrange and in, and his crafty game will allow him to find space despite the plethora of low-post options on this team. He’s backed up by Jamaal Wilkes, one of smoothest players of his time who exceled on the fast break, and defended his position stoutly. Kiki Vandeweghe, one of the best shooters and scorers of his era, will also see time on the wing.

The starting big men are the aforementioned college (and pro) legends, Bill Walton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Both were natural centers who will have to adjust to playing off of one another in the starting lineup. Before his injuries, Walton led Portland to their only NBA championship, and then guided them to one of the great starts in NBA history the following year before his body broke down. He will man the high post on offense and utilize his world-class passing skills to direct the offense in half court sets. Abdul-Jabbar is one of the handful of greatest players in NBA history, and will serve as their primary offensive option throughout the tournament. Their minutes will be staggered to ensure that one big man is always on the court at all times, but when they play together, opponents will have no chance of scoring at the rim against them. Kevin Love will see plenty of minutes as the ideal stretch four who will create space for each big man to operate in the post. His phenomenal rebounding skills are also noteworthy, as he won’t let them slip on the glass when the Twin Towers are staggered. Sidney Wicks and Mark Eaton will play when needed as the fourth and fifth big men on the roster. Wicks was an immensely talented player who battled with teammates and played on losing teams in his time in Portland. However, his size, quickness, and passing ability were valuable assets, and he should be able to positively contribute when called upon. Eaton, the most prolific shotblocker in modern NBA history, will provide a massive defensive roadblock for opponents if Walton and Jabbar suffer from foul trouble.

The NBA UCLA Bruins have a complete and balanced roster with great high-end talent. In order to reach their peak, their point guards, particularly Westbrook, must run the offense through their big men and avoid dominating the ball. Their shooters will thrive with the looks that Jabbar, Walton, and Westbrook will create for them, and their defense should flourish, particularly on the interior, with three of the great rim protectors in the tournament.