AUSTIN, Texas — What do you have to do to grab a rebound?
That question has a lot of answers. One school of thought says you should box out the nearest guy. Others believe you should head to where the missed shot is going no matter where the offense is. Maybe you have to be a little dirty, as some of the best rebounders are.
Whatever it is that works, UCLA doesn’t do it well and Minnesota does it as well as any team in the country.
Since grabbing a defensive rebound is sometimes as easy as being in the right place at the right time, the best way to measure rebounding effort is how well teams grab their own misses.
The Golden Gophers grab 44.3 percent of all available offensive rebounds, the best mark in the country, according to KenPom.com. UCLA gives up 34 percent of all available defensive rebounds, ranking 267th out of 347 Division I teams.
“We see a shot go up and we just head to the basket,” Gophers senior forward Rodney Williams said. “We got a guy in Trevor Mbakwe, that’s just about a double-digit rebound guy a game. When you got somebody inside that can be there for you, you’re going to end up one of the best rebounding teams in the country.”
The Gophers have Mbakwe, a 6-foot-8-inch senior who grabs 8.7 rebounds per game, among Williams and a host of others hitting the boards hard. UCLA’s frontcourt consists of the 6-foot-10-inch Wear twins, Travis and David, who are often shooting jump-shots and are too far away from the basket to grab offensive rebounds, and 6-foot-9-inch freshman Tony Parker. Parker has played sparingly this season as his defensive skills have slowly progressed, but Bruins Coach Ben Howland promises that Parker will get at least 10 minutes in Friday’s game (a pledge he has made to the media before but not kept).
Minnesota will try to exploit its rebounding advantage to beat UCLA tomorrow. But rebounding alone isn’t enough to beat the Bruins.
UCLA has been able to mitigate its size disadvantage by running the offense as fast as it can. Rebounds help get the pace in their favor, but even if a shot goes through the hoop the Bruins have tried to run as soon as the ball falls through the net.
Despite the Bruins being down to just seven scholarship players, it won’t stop them from trying to speed the game up.
“Nothing changes,” Howland said. “These guys are in great condition. Larry’s the old man, he’s 23. He can go forever.”
A quick offense could throw Minnesota out of its element. There aren’t many fast teams in the Big Ten, the Gophers’ conference and home of seven teams in this year’s bracket, and Minnesota doesn’t look to move the ball up the court as much as UCLA does. The two teams’ styles of play are as different as they come in college basketball.
“There’s a lot of big physical teams in the Big Ten,” Travis Wear said. “They grind it out, I feel like, a little more than the Pac-12 does. … But we know that Minnesota’s going to come and try to grind it out and beat us on the boards like a lot of the Big Ten schools do.”
Compiled by Ryan Menezes, Bruin Sports senior staff.