UCLA Basketball: Will the Real Howland Please Stand Up?

Achilles yesterday discussed this team and where this season ranked.  He concluded there may be a disease.  While not calling CBH either CHP or Karl Dorrell, he did say this season resembled the seasons those two "coaches" put together:

The truly frightening thing about the prior paragraph is that if this blog had existed 10 years ago [give or take] we could have written precisely the same thing about almost any of Steve Lavin's seasons.. . .

This team has been very much like Karl Dorrell's "10-2" team from 2005 season, which put together a string of "stirring comebacks" but was doing it after getting off to horrendously poor starts and scrambling through a number of dramatic comebacks.

Not surprisingly as ying to his yang I disagree.  What is this season like?  No other. 

First the context: no UCLA coach has survived a season like CBH had in 2009-10.  Lavin was fired after the last losing season by a coach that was not in his first year.  When the wheels come off for Hazzard he was fired for missing the tournament and Larry Farmer was forced out. 

CBH could have been fired for last year's debacle.  But he had three Final Fours in a row, a pretty amazing achievement in this era of short term players.  When was the last time someone done that?  And please don't tell me it was because of one player.  Each of the Final Four teams had a different leader, JF, AA, and KL.  He seems, in my opinion, to be an elite coach.

So this season is like no other in UCLA history, because no other coach has survived a season as bad as 2009-10.  But if you had to compare it what season would it be?  While extremely imperfect for analogy purposes 2004-05 may be the closest. 

More after the jump.

IN 2004-05, UCLA came into the Pac-10 tournament after two losing seasons and according to story entitled "Beavers damage Bruins' at-large hopes" possibly needing a win to ensure the Big Dance and promptly losing in the first round to a team that had never won on the road in the Pac-10 (emphasis mine throughout):

Chris Stephens scored 17 points, Nick DeWitz had 15 points and eight rebounds, and Oregon State surprised UCLA 79-72 Thursday in a first-round game of the Pac-10 tournament to perhaps damage the Bruins' NCAA hopes.

The win was the first for the Beavers against a conference opponent away from Gill Coliseum this season. They were 8-1 at home and 0-9 on the road in league games including losses at UCLA and last-place Southern California last week.

It is hard to explain to freshmen whether they are Josh Smith or Arron Afflalo,  the intensity that comes to post season tournaments.  AA fouled out of that game and went just 3-8 from the field.  Just as on Thursday, UCLA's opponent shot a way too high: 49% for the game.  The Bruins in 2004-05 choked their first game.  The Beavers went on to lose their next game by 21 in the tourney that year and yes, UCLA went on to the NCAA tournament despite that disappointing loss.  But that loss was a bad loss.

Now, would I have rather had Josh Smith foul out and hustle his butt off like I am sure AA did instead of his disappointing performance?  Of course.  Do I think AA practiced trick shots before his first Pac-10 tournament game which would be the rough equivalent of Josh Smith shooting threes as some said he was before the game?  No. 

But broadly speaking the points are similar.  That Bruin team knew it was likely in the tournament and lost its first round game to a lesser very bad road team in the first round of the Pac-10 tournament. 

Next point similar to 2004-05: the bench, or the lack thereof.  Looking at the box score for that game, it is shocking to see how bad the bench is.  Of the three players who played off the bench, only one, Ryan Hollins, was any good and then only later in his career. The key bench player was upperclassman PG Brian Morrison backing up the PG  and wing spots. 

In 2010--11, Stover has a few things in common with Ryan Hollins.  He could be a Ryan Hollins type by his senior year, although I think a comparison to LMR is morefitting .  Anderson and Morrison also are similar type of players playing similar roles.  There is something in common here with 2004-05. 

And by the way, the 2004-05 version of the Bruins averaged more TOs per game than this current squad.

Some more stories from that 2004-05 season, that may sound similar to this year in the Pac-10:

UCLA lost the Wooden Classic, in part because the young players could not deal with a wrinkle in the other teams scheme and were undisciplined

Craig Smith goes against UCLA players during summer pickup games, so he knew just what to expect when Boston College faced the Bruins in the Wooden Classic.

. . . Freshman Jordan Farmar had 14 points for the Bruins (4-1), who failed their first major test of the season despite leading by 13 points in the first half. Smith's bulk proved too daunting in the post for the likes of UCLA 7-footers Michael Fey and Ryan Hollins, who was replaced in the starting lineup by Matt McKinney after he was late for the team bus Saturday.

"We got really stagnant," Farmar said. "They did a matchup zone and we weren't getting any movement. We weren't used to it."

. . . "There's no excuse," Farmar said. "We have to establish our inside presence."

A good but not great player had a career night against the Bruins leading a Mike Montgomery team to a victory. 

Whenever Chris Hernandez glanced at Stanford's bench, the dwindling number of teammates in uniform -- and Dan Grunfeld's crutches -- provided all the motivation he needed for the best game of his career.

Hernandez scored eight of his career-high 37 points in the final 3½ minutes while carrying Stanford to its sixth straight victory over UCLA, 78-65 on Sunday.

With their injuries piling up and their schedule dwindling, the Cardinal (15-9, 9-5 Pac-10) need every point they can get from their remarkable point guard. Hernandez hit five 3-pointers and went 13-for-22 with several tough baskets during the Cardinal's two lengthy runs spanning halftime. . . .

Freshman Jordan Farmar had 16 points and seven assists for UCLA, which had little of the offensive spark it showed in a win over California on Thursday, frequently settling for poor shots. Farmar struggled in his matchup with Hernandez, making seven turnovers and failing to stay with the Stanford junior on defense.

The Bruins had bad halves and made comebacks.  Their best win was at home in front of a fired up crowd.

Down by 21 points in the first half and its crowd nearly silent, UCLA appeared headed for a blowout loss to a team that for years dwelled at the bottom of the Pac-10.

But the Bruins regained their shooting touch and the noise from 11,970 fans boosted them to a 95-86 upset of Washington (No. 14 ESPN/USA Today; No. 12 AP) on Saturday night, snapping the Huskies' nine-game winning streak.

"The crowd gets you moving a little faster," freshman point guard Jordan Farmar said. "Our crowd was a huge part of it. I like the whole atmosphere. It's what college basketball is all about."

Am I saying someone on this team is AA or JF?  No!!!   Am I saying the 2004-05 Bruins would let a team like cellar dweller Arizona State hang around with them?  No.  All I am saying is IMO the teams have more in common with 2004-05 than any CHP team or Karl Dorrell team.  Both this year and 2004-05 the teams  learning to play defense and were learning to overcome a culture of losing. 

But of course there are huge differences.  A few quick ones.

1.  2010-11 won 22 games against a tough schedule and beat a ranked out of conference team, BYU.  2004-05 did not beat any ranked teams our of conference and with the major exception of a road game vs.  MSU played a much softer non-Pac-10 schedule and only won 18 games. 

2.  The 2004-05 team did not have a serious injury during the season like this team has to Zeek.

3.   The biggest difference: during 2004-05, Howland was fixing up someone else's mess.  He deserved patience.  This mess is his which is different.

The culture of losing, learning to play tough man to man defense, the lack of a bench, are all CBH's fault to some degree. I respect Achilles opinions and his skepticism is certainly justifiable.  IMO, we do have problems.  That goes to CBH.  But, I have more patience and like the line on the graph overall if not the terrible dips.  I think CBH is more the coach of the Final Fours and not the coach of 2009-10. 

We either are going in the right direction or we at a minimum met expectations this year.  It is not about this year as much anymore.

With a hurt back-court our tournament chances are small.  I would not be surprised to see us be a one and out again, like 2004-05.   That's okay, this year is about the experience.

Next year, I look for us to have a bench, a good defense from the start, and to win and do well more like the final four years.  So yes, I see this like 2004-5 as a set up for the future.

If we don't, the disease that started in 2008-09 has fully taken hold.   

Only next year will Achilles and I have our answer.

Go Bruins.

<em>This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of BruinsNation's (BN) editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of BN's editors.</em>

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