Ben Howland is one of the premiere coaches in college basketball, and is a star representative of our beloved UCLA. His players work hard, are humble and well-spoken in interviews, and don't get in trouble off the court. He prepares his team well, and he's a great in-game coach. More importantly, he has made visible improvement during his time here.
There's always room for more.
Now I realize that this comes after a depressing loss, and it's always easy to point out flaws in poorly played games. But the following has been consistent throughout Howland's time here, and I'd like to open it up for discussion.
When UCLA is ahead, UCLA's timeout strategy is pretty standard: save them if possible, use them to stop opponent team runs.
When UCLA is behind, Howland uses his timeouts as quickly as possible. Often they are gone with 5 or more minutes left. I am not at all sure that this is a poor strategy--UCLA has had some quality comebacks (eg. Gonzaga) with this method. Great coaches do sometimes use rather unorthodox timeout strategies. Consider Phil Jackson's concept of letting his team play through opponent runs in order to gain experience and confidence. Very unorthodox, but apparently very successful.
At worst it's a topic of discussion.
I personally think an effort to save 1-2 timeouts by design in close games could prove valuable. Obviously there is no reasonable way to determine the efficacy of this strategy, but it seemed to me that having 1 timeout at the end of each of our losses this year would have given us a greater opportunities to win. Maybe not. Maybe it would not have been close (we were down big in both) if we had not used our timeouts to slow things down. I don't know. But again, I would like to see a few timeouts left at the end of close games. Obviously Howland's use of rapid succession timeouts is by design, and maybe it's the right way to go.
This will certainly come up again before this season is through, probably on multiple occasions. Hopefully, whatever strategy is utilized, we come out on top from here on in.