When UCLA breaks the huddle at practice or in games, it normally ends in a “One. Two. Three. Together.” That has since changed.
“We’ve been saying ‘One. Two. Three. Jordan,’” UCLA point guard Larry Drew II said.
It’s a tribute to fallen teammate Jordan Adams. As UCLA prepares for Friday’s matchup with Minnesota in their first appearance in the NCAA tournament since 2011, they’ll do so without Adams, who is out for the rest of the season after breaking his foot on the final play of the team’s Pac-12 tournament win over Arizona.
UCLA will travel to Austin, Texas as the No. 6 seed in the South Region and Tubby Smith’s Golden Gophers are a No. 11.
Heading into the Pac-12 tournament championship game against Oregon on Saturday night, the Bruins had little to no time to prepare for life without Adams.
Forward Travis Wear told media members following the loss that the team ran sets offensively with players in spots they hadn’t practiced in.
“We got to now tweak some things,” UCLA head coach Ben Howland said. “I’ve got to do a good job with our rotations to use those seven guys that are going to play the majority of the minutes.”
Roles have changed. Norman Powell moves into the starting lineup and his minutes will increase from 21.6 per game to somewhere in the 30s, according to Howland. Kyle Anderson will now see a lot more time on the perimeter.
For Shabazz Muhammad, there is no one that can pick up the slack if he’s having an off night in his first NCAA tournament.
“I’m really excited (to play in the tournament) but at the same (time) I know I have to take care of business,” Muhammad said. “I know my team’s relying on me to help us win this game so I’m going to try my best to do it.”
As a whole they have to do their best over the next few days of preparation. If they were able to come away with a win on Saturday night, it very well could have affected their seeding as well as had them playing closer to home, as in Salt Lake City as part of the West Region.
Although members of the team were disappointed they weren’t selected to play in the West Region, there is some good that comes with being in the South bracket and playing in Austin, Texas.
“We’re excited about playing on Friday versus Thursday so it gives us an extra day of preparation,” Howland said.
Minnesota is a team that rebounds the ball extremely well. They’re 8th in the country in rebound margin, winning the battle of the boards by 8.2 nightly. That doesn’t bode well for a UCLA team that rebounding has been the “Achilles heel” for all season long.
At the beginning of the season, Minnesota turned heads as one of the top teams in the country before dealing with the rigors of, arguably, the best conference in the country, the Big Ten. The Golden Gophers are 12-2 this season in non-conference games and beat Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Indiana in conference.
As a team, UCLA already knows the tough challenge Minnesota represents but the Bruins will show up and hope to play inspired for the injured Adams.
“We’re going out there playing for him because we know that he’s very disappointed and he’s not going to have the chance to play in the NCAA tournament so everybody is (going to play for him),” Drew II said. “We’re going to rally behind him and play these games for him.”