TAMPA, FL - MARCH 19: Head coach Ben Howland of the UCLA Bruins looks on against the Florida Gators during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at St. Pete Times Forum on March 19, 2011 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
In case folks missed it Peter Yoon from ESPNLA wrote up an analysis on UCLA basketball's "regular season" before the start of the tournament. As many among the UCLA faithful were feeling content with just making the tournament, Yoon ran the following quotes from Ben Howland before the tournament:
Just getting to the NCAA tournament hasn't been enough at UCLA since the days of John Wooden. That's why, despite returning to the tournament after a one-year absence, Howland would like at least a couple of wins and a little run toward a title.
Certainly that would go a long way toward lowering the stress level.
As DC Bruins said this morning Bruins came up short because Bruins gave "40 minutes of imperfect effort." Bruins had long odds taking on a talented Gators team in their home state. Still the Bruins had their chance. The game was tied at 55-55 with little more than 6 minutes left. Joshua Smith missed a dunk at the top of the zone which Florida turned into a 3 point fast break on the other end. Smith - who checked into Westwood lot closer to 400 pounds than 300 - subsequently missed another bucket in a soft attempt which turned into yet another Florida 3.
The game was still not over as the Bruins had another shot with 1:20 left and down by 1 point. Their lack of poise, a well developed bench, and conditioning left them short. Bruins missed a golden opportunity to make a Final-4 run as the South Eastern region would have been left wide open with BYU and Butler lurking on the horizon.
The Florida loss should hurt. It should sting.
This loss should burn and eat up all the current Bruins inside if they have a sense of pride and understanding of the tradition that goes along with UCLA basketball.
Many here are feeling good about a second round loss. For their sake we hope the coaches, players and this entire program is left with the same stinging feelings, that burned Ed O'Bannon and his Bruins following tough losses in 1993 and 1994 NCAA tournaments.
The season met BN's bare minimum expectations. For that Howland deserves credit. But the standard of UCLA basketball is lot higher and retrospect the team did not live up to it's full potential as it dropped number of winnable games against mediocre to poor opponents throughout the season.
Ben Howland may be off the burning hot seat but by his own admissions the pressure remains on his program. He will need to find a way to retain Malcolm Lee and Reeves Nelson this off-season. He then will have to put together an elite season from wire to wire next year. Bruins will need to come through a conference championship, get a protected seed placing them in the Western region, and make a run in the Big Dance.
There will be extensive analysis on BN as the frontpagers will keep track of off-season moves. We will look at the big picture dealing with recruiting. We will examine the assistant coaching and discuss whether they are getting the job done. We will keep reflecting on the style of Howland's basketball and have honest discussions on whether it can get us to promised land.
If you have thoughts we welcome you to share it in a respectful and thoughtful manner without attacking the frontpagers or other members of the community. We also ask you to do so without bringing up classic Lavin points about "unreasonable UCLA basketball fans."
So buckle up. This is going to be a long and interesting off-season in Westwood.
The anxiety level is going to be high in this community and it will remain so until Howland brings back where UCLA belongs - the top of college basketball world.
At this juncture, it's next season - which will be a make or break season for him to get that job done.