So, the UCLA Bruins’ ten game win streak ended with a loss to top-25 team Oregon, and as soon as the final buzzer sounded in the ears of Bruin “faithful”, reviews of the awful team and worse coaching reverberated across SoCal and the college basketball world. Well, a mere five days later, the Bruins traveled to arid-Zona to face the No. 6 Wildcats, and what happens? All of a sudden Ben Howland again knows how to coach, and the “run-and-gun” Bruins blow the ‘Cats away, getting off to a 19-3 lead, and never really looking back.
Same team, same coach, same “fans”, same sportswriters – give me a break. The team went into the season with an astoundingly hyped freshman class, but a freshman class that had to play big minutes from the start. The showcase player, Shabazz Muhammad, was under NCAA inquiry and injured and could not practice or play. The team lost all its veterans from a year ago, and began the season with a team of rookies and second-year
A single loss renewed the hoots, but last night should have shown the experts something, one could hope. Solid play from Kyle Anderson, David Wear, Jordan Adams, and even a Tony Parker sighting (due primarily to a concussion suffered by David Wear) all led an impressive, exciting, fast-breaking, running game, with an entertaining offense and vastly improved defense (8 steals, 14 Arizona turnovers). And Muhammad was spectacular in leading it all. But there is a rub.
Not long after the game, Yahoo! Sports “expert” Pat Forde wrote an article re-hashing the NCAA investigation, going out of his way to mention the rules violations committed in Muhammad’s recruitment process but totally failing to mention that UCLA had nothing to do with the violations, committed by OTHER SCHOOLS trying to win the Shabazz prize. But what Forde did do was to raise new questions, by describing how after the game, Muhammad was seen sporting a Gucci backpack. Forde even went so far as to check Gucci prices and ask how the freshman could have afforded such an expensive accoutrement.
Whether it is from within the Bruin family or from outside troublemakers, no one can seem to sit back and enjoy a revitalized Bruin season of winning basketball. Given today’s rules of the game and the likelihood of “One-and-Out” college stars, this season may be one and out. Give Howland a break, give Muhammad the benefit of the doubt, and enjoy winning, and entertaining, basketball.