Ben Ball Game Day Roundup: Coasting?

Bruins are going to take on another focused opponent today at Pauley who IMHO is perfectly capable at this point to pull off an upset (given the way we have suffered letdowns v. Arizona State and Washington State at Pauley). That is why I thought this comment from DC in today's Daily News was particularly alarming:

"I've been ready for the NCAAs since I came back," UCLA point guard Darren Collison said, referring to his decision to return for a senior season. "I wanted to skip the whole Pac-10 and the whole season, (and) just to go to the NCAA Tournament."

So as No. 20 UCLA prepares for tonight's tilt with Oregon State, the topic is not whether the second-place Bruins (22-7, 11-5 Pacific-10) can beat the improved Beavers (13-14, 7-9) and defeat last-place Oregon (8-20, 2-14) in Saturday's regular-season finale to possibly earn a share of the conference crown with Washington (22-7, 13-4).

And the discussion is not whether a rejuvenated UCLA, coming off a road sweep of Stanford and California, can win next week's Pac-10 Tournament.

Nope.

The players are talking about the NCAA Tournament, and stating it is vital to win the remaining games so they are seeded in an environmentally friendly arena.

From the press reports it sounds like instead of talking about Oregon State, DC has been thinking about the NCAA. From the LA Times:

While Palm [Jerry Palm] has them in Kansas City, Joe Lunardi of ESPN's "Bracketology" projects them as the East Region's No. 5, starting against 12th-seeded Miami in Boise, Idaho. Another northern site -- Portland, Ore. -- is possible.

"We'd rather play in Portland as opposed to Minnesota or any of those East Coast areas," Collison said. "It's just traveling. A lot of traveling results in fatigue and jet lag."

Well none of that is going to really matter if DC and his team-mates perform the same way tonight the way they coughed it up against Arizona State and Washington State. A loss against Oregon State will quash all the momentum they worked hard to get back last week.

So I don't think it is very smart either on DC or any other players part to take the bait from local reporters and get wrapped up in tourney talk, completely over looking an opponent like Oregon State. It doesn't make them appear as a group of leaders setting an example of a focused team. In fact, it almost make it sound like DC and others have been coasting through the entire season just to get to this point leading to those bad losses at home.

As for Oregon State, they are a bit weary after going through the grind of a Pac-10 season:

Point-center Roeland Schaftenaar, perhaps OSU's most important player, is playing huge minutes on a bad ankle.

Point guard Rickey Claitt has also piled on the minutes.

Same for Seth Tarver, the front man in OSU's trademark 1-3-1 zone that has befuddled so many opponents.

Clearly, Tarver wasn't as active in Sunday's 79-69 loss to Oregon at Mac Court, and Robinson said later, "I think Seth was just worn out.''

Yet those guys are coming into Pauley believing they can beat UCLA:

"We know what kind of players they are. We know how good they are. But we're a different team.'' ... Johnson said an upset win at UCLA would be "amazing. It would show how much we've changed.''

Said Seth Tarver, "we've just got to go out there and play, and not be star-struck or anything. Just go out there and do what we do.''

OSU gained some confidence from seeing WSU beat UCLA 82-81 at Pauley on Feb. 21. ... but Robinson said don't try the comparative scores game (OSU won at Wazzu), "because that never works.''

Still, the Cougars' ability to shock the Bruins in their own building gives the Beavers hope.

Well we all know how powerful the message of "hope" can be. Those guys will be a dangerous team particularly if our team is really busy thinking about NCAA seedings instead of worrying about the opponent at hand. I hope not and I don't think they will do that given Coach Howland is the head coach of our team. Still it makes me wonder a bit because I haven't seen those kinds of comments from "leaders" in charge of more recent edition of Ben Ball warriors.

We will see you about an hour before tip-off (7:30 pm PST). Hope to see a team that is determined, tenacious and ready to pounce and take apart Oregon State, instead of one that is coasting like the last time they came out on Pauley.

GO BRUINS.

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