Big win yesterday. But we have an even bigger game tomorrow. Cal is on its Sherman's March To The Sea now. We need to destroy everybody in our sights to ensure a Pac-12 championship. Due to the Pac-12 schedule, we only face UW once. We are currently tied with them for first in the standings with a few other teams on our heels. So, unfortunately, we are not totally in control of our own destiny. Nobody really is in the Pac-12. But if we win and win and win and win, we'll get, at least, a share of the Pac-12 championship. But who wants that when we could have more!
Tomorrow, we have another test on our road to the championship (hopefully??), the UCLA Bruins. UCLA is the MBB blue blood in the Pac, but they have fallen upon hard times. At 7-5, they are currently in the middle of the Pac. However, only a few games separate the top from the middle in this conference, so with just a few wins, UCLA could find itself back on top. They are a dangerous team and I, for one, AM VERY SCARED RIGHT NOW!
To find out more, we spoke with DC Bruins (not to be confused with DC Trojan or DCBlue) from Bruins Nation about the game. Bruins Nation has the info we need to know about UCLA sports. Many thanks to DC Bruins. Check out his answers to our questions after the jump. GO BEARS!1. Judging by the readership at Bruins Nation, it seems like there are very few supporters of Ben Howland left. So, what happened to the guy who led UCLA to 3 Final Fours in a row, and who had gathered the conference's best talent through the mid-2000s? Is this a case of a good head coach losing his best recruiter? A failure to better scout talent? What gives? I mean the guy obviously knows how to coach basketball - seeing his success first at Pitt, then at UCLA. How does a guy fall off the edge like that?
Howland is a great teacher of basketball. Darren Collison said: "You need the vegetables from Coach Howland," Collison said. "[Then] dessert in the NBA is kind of your reward."
That is not a question but it is looking like we will miss the NCAA Tourney for the second time in three years. Why?
There is a multitude of reasons but they all lead to Howland. I will cite three of them.
i. Recruiting errors. Howland has gone for the home run and mostly struck out. For example, we have not had a pure PG recruit since Jrue Holiday. Howland stuck out on some big names like Ray McCallum and we ended up with a JC transfer Lazeric Jones. Jones tries hard but he is not an elite athlete.
ii. Mistakes in who he plays. Bruins Nation and UCLA fans will never understand why Howland played Nikola Dragovic, a no-defense, poor shooting big so many minutes over Mike Moser in 2009-10. Moser was raw but Dragovic was terrible. Moser is now a top in the nation rebounder. Howland seems to favor seniors and upperclassman over more talented freshman. Sometimes the freshman (like Moser and current BYU starting PG Matt Carilino ) get frustrated and leave. This year Howland may be doing it again playing Jerime Anderson over Norman Powell. Howland also seems reluctant to play one of the PAC 12 best defenders in Anthony Stover some say because he favors the Wears.
iii. Stubbornness. Howland wants to put a square peg in a round hole. He wants his players to do things they cannot. For example, he refuses to play zone despite his personnel crying out for it. He acts like his current players are the same players as the final four guys. At the start of the year, 6'10" David Wear was a wing. David tried really hard but could not cover a D-1 wing and this was part of the reason for our horrid start this season.
2. With this season looking like an underperforming season for UCLA - what does the near future look like? Is everything riding on Shabazz signing?
Near future we are not going to fire two revenue sport coaches in the same year. But Howland's days are numbered if we do not make the Tourney this year. Shabazz certainly helps Howland but the questions are bigger than one recruiting class.
3. How have the Wear twins adjusted now that 3/4 of the season is over? In the beginning they looked like skilled but finesse type players allergic to defense and rebounding?
The Wears are great kids who are very coachable. They are the kind of kids who would try to run through walls if you asked. But that is part of the problem, they can't run through walls.
They are kids playing close to the limits of their athletic ability. They are probably the best set offense players at the power forward spot Howland has had in the sense they follow the playbook perfectly. They are just not the best athletes.
4. Are you guys playing more zone?
One of the complaints against Howland is he is stubborn. His refusal/reluctance to play zone is exhibit 1. This team cries out (especially when Josh is playing) for zone but Howland stubbornly sticks to man to man. We have played zone once in the pass month and it keyed our ONLY road win outside LA this year over WSU. Howland only played it because Travis Wear was hurt and Josh Smith was in foul trouble.
5. Who from Bruins Nation is going to live with Josh Smith this summer and get him up at 6am every day for beach workouts and keep him away from the Jumbacos?
There are two theories on Josh.
1. Coach Howland basially says that Josh was too cocky and thought that it did not matter if he was overweight. He thought he could dominate regardless and ate accordingly in the off season. However, in the words of Marques Johnson at the start of the year whoever listed his weight at 305 was dyslectic. Josh need to get in better shape and is starting to do so. I believe this theory.
2. Josh does not really like basketball but he is 6'10" and a good athlete, thus life has made him a basketball player. He is not a basketball player by choice and therefore a bit self-destructive.
6. Predict a score.
Being at home in the PAC 12 is worth a number of points due to the, as we say at bruins nation, SPTR (bleep Pac Twelve Refs). I think that is enough and I will be a homer and says UCLA pulls out a 69-68 win.