More with Less: Overachieving Ben Ball Warriors

So over the weekend I had a little free time and just for curiosity wanted to look up some recruiting numbers in hoops. I wanted to look up the recruiting classes' star ratings (using Scout.com numbers) and see how Pac-10 schools stack up against each other. I also looked up the numbers on classes of 4 others school besides UCLA, that I consider college basketball royalties, and also the number on defending national champion and current number 1 team in the nation to see how UCLA stacks up against them:

Here are the numbers on Pac-10 teams (national ranking numbers reflect this week's latest AP rankings):

Conf. Rank (Nat’l Rank) Team 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star Avg.
5 (19) Arizona 4 7 2 1 - 4.00
1 (5) UCLA 1 10 1 1 1 3.64
7 Cal 1 6 5 1 - 3.54
4 (15) Oregon 1 4 5 2 - 3.50
7 Washington 4 5 7 6 - 3.38
6 Stanford 2 2 7 3 - 3.21
3 (22) Southern Cal 1 8 9 5 1 3.13
10 ASU - 1 13 4 - 2.67
9 Oregon State - - 7 5 1 2.46
2 (10) WSU - - 6 7 5 2.01

What do we see? Well obviously the most remarkable numbers in this chart belongs to Washington State. I think it may not be too far fetched to speculate Bennett’s days as the head coach of Washington State is numbered, and we may see him coaching at a place like Ann Arbor next basketball season. Just stunning really what he has done over at Pullman. And the common misnomer is that Benet is doing it with a slowdown offense. Not really. Bennett is still running his Dad’s slow tempo offense, but it’s a variation of it. He is encouraging his players to take the first good shot available. He has combined an opportunistic offense with a solid, fundamental, tenacious defense to weave the story of the most compelling team in this basketball season.

I am sure it’s not a surprise to anyone to see number on Arizona’s talents. Clearly in terms of recruiting they have been Pac-10’s "standard" for last four seasons. However, given how they have played in last two years, their hold on that spot is going to be tenuous in the coming months.

Oregon is right where they should be. I wasn’t surprised to see them get off to a great start in the Pac-10. They have lot of great talent on their roster. And right now anything short of a top-4 finish would be a disappointment for Ernie Kent.

Despite the constant gushing by LA's traditional media which fawns over every move by Floyd, I don't think Trojans are having the most overachieving season. Sure they are in the top-25 right now but we will see if they remain there by the end of the regular season. They have had a ridiculous amount of turnovers on their roster, lot of it is due to Floyd’s "handling" of scholarship players. Lot of players have "left" Floyd’s program in last two years. Yet the core of that program is still built on talent brought in by Bibby (Young, Pruitt, and Stewart). And once all its said and done, Trojans may end up having a season, which will be par for their talent level, which is faily decent and should put them somewhere in the middle of the Pac-10. That should be good enough for a spot in the big dance. No biggie. And yet the lapdogs in the LA media will hail it as some kind of great coaching accomplishment.

As for UCLA the numbers show over last two years Coach Howland has achieved more with less. The fact that UCLA is in second place in the Pac-10 in terms of talent is a little remarkable, considering Howland inherited a single man recruiting class of Trevor Ariza, who left after his freshman season. And considering what Howland has done in last two years in the Pac-10, winning the regular season championship, conference tourney, an appearance in the NC game, and then positioning UCLA to make a run for the Pac-10 regular season/conference titles, number 1 or 2 seeding out West, is just remarkable, when you compare UCLA’s talent level to those of Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, some of the perennial recruiting powers in college basketball.

Conf. Rank (Nat’l Rnk) Team 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star Avg.
6 (NR) Duke 7 6 - - - 4.54
2 (9) Kansas 7 8 - - - 4.18
1 (4) UNC 7 6 4 - - 3.94
1 (1) Florida 1 9 7 - - 3.65
2 (20) Kentucky 3 10 2 5 1 3.43

The numbers above are not surprising. Duke, UNC, and Kansas over last decade and half have been in position to pick and chose blue chip superstars. So their numbers are ridiculous. During Lavin (and even Harrick years) those schools would routinely come into Southern California and take recruits away right under UCLA’s nose. Those days are gone. Howland got off to a rough start in his first two years (losing players like Stevenson and Thompson to UNC), but in last two years he has been able to put up a picket fence around Southern Cal. He is locked in a dead heat with Roy Williams over Jrue Holliday (even though Washington fans may think Holiday is leaning towards the Huskies from what I can tell this is a very fluid situation).

I found Florida’s number surprising. I thought for sure their numbers would be higher. Big props to Dononvan for putting together a great year last year and good one this season. But then again with ranked schedule, it’s not like Florida is playing anyone getting into March Madness.

Anyways, I just wanted to share those numbers to provide some perspective. I do think given the talent level Coach Howland has had to work with (which is not there yet in terms of the talent level of Duke, UNC or Kansas), I think we should really appreciate how he has clearly done more with less over the last couple years, and has reestablished UCLA as one of the elite programs in the nation. Given the fact that we are now in waiting mode for recruits like Love, Stanback, Lee, Anderson et al., we are going nowhere but up.

So enjoy the season. If you take everything into consideration Bruins have been the most overachieving team in the country (and in the conference) during last two years. We will see how Wazzu performs next year when they may be playing under a new coach and will also have targets on their backs from early on.

We have a tough road trip ahead. ASU is going to give us their desperate shot trying to save their season with their 1st Pac-10 win, while Arizona is going to be in desperation mode to save some face after 4 straight losses to Ben Ball warriors.

That’s what Coach Howland has done in last four years. Doing more with less in just about four years, he has turned Bruins into a program, beating which causes students to rush the floor. BTW we ran a somewhat similar query in football during last off-season and found that the Bruins had the third most talented team in the Pac-10 (in terms of recruiting rankings). And you know what is going on with our football program.

So thank you coach Howland for giving us at least one major revenue program which is a joy to follow from start to finish. No matter what happens in hoops rest of the season, I know we are in good hands.

GO BRUINS.

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