March 22, 2006

U... C... L... A...

phil hooked it UP with sweet 16 tickets for thursday in oakland. second game? memphis-bradley; an after-dinner drink to be enjoyed after the main course: ucla and gonzaga. given the enormity of the game, let's talk a little bit about my ucla bias... i was always a john wooden fan. i think he is the greatest coach in the history of sports and a tremendous man. i don't like rick reilly as a sportswriter, but i'll never forget reading this article about wooden. the autographed wooden autobiography my brother got me is one of my two most prized possessions (december 15, 2003). when mike started college at UCLA in '97, i immediately became a UCLA fan. for several years, i followed the bruins intensely. in '98, john fong got a couple of courtside tickets to a stanford-usc matchup at maples. he wore his cal sweatshirt and i wore a bright blue ucla fleece. no joke. in february of '00, a friend's mother took me to the stanford-UCLA tilt at maples. it was her way of congratulating me for getting into stanford. i wore a stanford shirt but, to be honest, i remember feeling just fine when jerome moiso dropped in the game-winning basket. yes, i said it. as years went on, i became much more of a stanford fan. attending a school trumps "being a fan," when the two conflict. i get more excited/ angry/ disappointed/ elated when stanford wins or loses than any other team. case in point: february 07, 2004. but about ucla... the day ucla hired ben howland, i had a couple of emotions. one, i was excited for ucla and its fans. two, i was disappointed for stanford. considering that ucla is THE premier basketball program in the country, i always felt through the steve lavin years that ucla deserved better. my brother and i used to talk after every bruins game about the deficiencies of lavin as a coach and ucla as a team. i'm not going to get into more lavin-bashing, because he does seem to be a genuinely good guy and i spent years spewing venom at him on xanga. but let's just say that: being an avid watcher of pitt basketball during the howland years, i knew what would happen at ucla. having ucla become a powerhouse west coast program would hurt stanford's recruiting even more (if that's possible) and make winning pac-10 championships tougher. (on a side note, i loathe the day when cal's administration rids the school of ben braun.) let's look at ben howland's first three years at ucla: 2003-04: 11-17 2004-05: 18-11 2005-06: 29-6, pac-10 championships (regular seasion & tournament) now that's saying something. even though howland attributes the turnaround to "better players," anyone who knows basketball can notice the difference from the lavin years. i think howland himself says it best:
"I tell them, 'You guys want to win championships? You want to win big? You want to play at the next level? You want to win now? You've got to defend,'" Howland said. "And that's your constant, night in and night out. Great teams play good defense in any sport. Period."
they play tough. they play aggressively. they play fearlessly. they play defense. but most of all, they are just getting started. in the next ten years, we're going to see wave after wave of fantastic recruiting classes molded into athletic, talented, skilled, tough, and confident bruin teams. it's concerning for stanford, arizona, washington, and all of the other pac-10 schools. ucla is about to rise up to national prominence and re-place itself at the top tier of college basketball, along with duke, north carolina, and uconn. believe that. i'm happy that john wooden gets to see it.

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At 3/22/2006 03:25:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Go Zags!


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