Wednesday, January 30, 2013

UCLA vs. USC: Pre-Game Thoughts

-Well that's that. Any good feelings after the Zona win are just about gone, and there are probably more bad feelings than good.

-I have to say, the most concerning thing about Howland's teams over the last 5 years is how much they've played according to the stakes/played down to the opponents level. It's been, well, very Lavinesque.

-Every time there's a big game, UCLA seems to show up and at least lose close. When the game isn't all that meaningful, then we get games like Saturday.

-Its really just a culture of winning, and expecting to win, that you build in your program. The Final Four teams had it. Even the 2008 team had it, to an unhealthy degree. And it just disappeared overnight.

-Shabazz Muhammad is sick, Travis Wear is hurt, this really could be the beginning of the end. A loss to SC would be the absolute final straw.

-Or it could still be the beginning of a spark. There is no game from now to the Arizona game that this UCLA team, if healthy, shouldn't be able to win.

-I've seriously never felt so wishy-washy about a team since, well, ever.

-No, Josh Smith wouldn't have made a difference. Trust me when I say that. Smith is a classic case of a kid with great capabilities with a peanut size head. Perhaps a change of scenery will help him reflect on his decisions, but it wasn't going to work at UCLA. And its not a knock on Howland in this case. From what I understand, the coaching staff tried their best in the hours allotted to them to get Josh Smith into shape, but you are only allotted so many hours a week over summers. The staff gave him countless workouts to do, and sent supervisors and trainers whenever they were allowed. They gave him several diet restrictions and diet charts. They might as well have thrown them in the trash. It got to the point where the staff had to tell the school dining hall staff and surrounding fast food restaurants to stop giving him food. It also didn't help that Smith got in with the wrong crowd on certain things. And if he was not the only kid up to such activities, then it would be a program problem. But it was just him. He was the only one who didn't do what the staff told him to do over the offseason. He was the only one that didn't follow his diet charts. And he was the only one involved in unwanted activities. There was a reason Smith's minutes were down a large number this year. He simply didn't deserve them. His departure was good for UCLA. Perhaps Smith will use his year off to reflect on his future, and reflect on how important this is to him.

-Realize, when you've done things a certain way for the first 18-19 years of your life, you're not going to change overnight. That's why perhaps this will be good for Smith.

-Part of the problem is also the infrastructure. UCLA Basketball doesn't have nearly as many trainers and doesn't have near the support staff as Duke, UNC, Kentucky, and other programs of the same caliber.

-Of course, the media perceives it as Smith wasn't held accountable, but Howland has never cared how the media perceives his program, for better or worse. And usually for worse.

-Any team with 3 7-footers has a chance to beat the Bruins. UCLA had better be ready. We don't want Reggie Miller joining Bill Walton on the fan club of "Retired Jersey's who Hate Howland."

-I was at the basketball campout, Howland and the marketing director came out. Howland was actually very nice and courteous to the students. Interesting moment: students began to ask about expanded student seating, and about free throw distraction items (squiggly things, thunder sticks, balloons, etc). Howland gave a "see what I mean" kinda look to the director. He then went off about how it was great that the students fought the student seating to move it back to the sidelines, and started putting the director on the spot about how the students should get what they want, how they should get first priority for tickets for the PAC 12 tourney, and other random things to better the student experience. I've heard several times that the staff has wanted more for the students, only to be turned down by the administration. Howland urged students to go up to the marketing offices and voice their concerns directly. It seems he believes he can't win this fight alone.

-Honestly, the idea of a blue out is great and all, but I really don't know who else got the memo besides the students, who wear blue anyways. I'll be shocked if the entire house is in blue.

-Its just how things go with anything in sports: winning cures all. Two years ago, we lost to USC 50-0 in the white alternate uni's, and all you heard was how horrible the uniforms were and how we should never wear them again. This year, we wore the "LA Knights" in a 66-10 thrashing of Arizona, and they were the coolest things ever. And that's kind of how its going to go tonight. If the Bruins win, and win big, then the all blue look will be a huge success. If they lose or struggle in any way, shape, or form, it was a distraction, it was deviating from winning tradition, and perhaps the colors were so bright that it affected their play.

-Honestly, I love Reggie Miller. But he won just one tourney game here. He won the schools only NIT championship, which doesn't even have a banner in Pauley. It depends what were looking for. If were honoring the best BRUIN basketball players, Josh Shipp gets in over Miller. But if were arguing the best UCLA players period in all of basketball, then Miller absolutely deserves every moment of this.

-No pressure Ben, but if you lose, you might as well announce your retirement after the game.

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