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The Bench Warmer: A Whole Lotta Love for Bruins

January 16, 2008 | By Daniel Olson | comment on this post
Kevin Love is on fire for the Bruins.
Kevin Love is tearing it up for the Bruins. (Photo: CNNSI)

Welcome to the debut of The Bench Warmer, RotoRob’s newest column by our newest writer, Daniel Olson. Each week, Daniel will bring you the latest news from around the world of college basketball. Without further ado, let’s get to it.

While most are not surprised by UCLA’s 16-1 start, people have to be a little shocked at how easily it handled Washington State in last Saturday’s matchup at Pauley Pavilion. The biggest reason the No. 5-ranked Bruins defeated the fourth-ranked Cougars so easily? Simply put, freshmen sensation Kevin Love.

Love, from Lake Oswego Oregon, was completely unstoppable for the Bruins, scoring 27 points (a new career high) while also pulling down a mammoth 14 rebounds. The 14 rebounds were two – that’s right, two – less than the entire WSU team! To go along with his brilliant offensive performance, Love completely flustered and shut down Cougar centre Aron Baynes, a feat that had not happened to date.

While Love might not have the voice of Beach Boys member and Uncle Mike Love, odds are he will be getting a paycheque similar to his famous relative sooner rather than later. While Bruin fans wish for four years out of the star, they might be California Dreamin’. The 6’10”, 271-pound Love already has an NBA body as well the natural smarts to succeed at the pro level. As long as he stays relatively injury free, chances are he will bolt out of Westwood and head to the pros. Look for Love to be a high lottery pick come draft time.

Who’s Hot?

  • Eric Gordon: Indiana freshman Eric Gordon is a scoring machine as he has his Hoosiers up to No. 9 in the national rankings. Averaging 23 points a contest, this Hoosier looks to be a high lottery pick abd could make an immediate impact in the NBA if he decides to go pro.
  • Roy Hibbert: Many were surprised when Hibbert decided against joining former teammate Jeff Green by entering the draft after last season, but it might be paying dividends for his 2008 draft stock. Despite his Hoyas’ loss to No.18 Pittsburgh on Monday, Hibbert has been playing solid of late. He is shooting over 50 per cent from the field in his last three contests, while also improving at the charity stripe by shooting 80 per cent over this stretch. While we all know Hibbert will be going pro after this season, if his strong play continues he might have a shot at slipping into a late lottery pick.

Who’s Not?

  • Tajuan Porter: The mighty mouse guard from the University of Oregon is experiencing a sophomore slump, likely due to the loss of guard Aaron Brooks to the NBA. It is unlikely Porter would enter the draft following this season, especially given how poorly he has played the last six games. He has shot 16-for-56 from the field, good for a not-so-impressive 29 per cent. In order to have a shot at the NBA, as well as helping his Ducks to make a deep post-season run, Porter needs to step up.
  • Drew Neitzel: The senior guard from Michigan State has struggled mightily the last three games, shooting a meager 27 per cent from the field while only getting to the line for two free throw attempts. This poor stretch was capped as the Spartans lost to lowly Iowa where, scoring just 36 points – the lowest output in school history. Right now, Neitzel looks to be a late second round pick in the upcoming draft, but if his play does not improve, he is in danger of going undrafted.

Game of the Week

USC vs. UCLA, Saturday, January 19th 3:30 p.m. EST, CBS

This game features Southern California’s finest freshmen in USC’s O.J. Mayo and UCLA’s Love. While UCLA is having the better year, don’t be surprised to see Mayo have a monster game as his Trojans attempt an upset against Love’s Bruins and try to re-emerge as contenders for the Pac-10 championship.

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