Thursday night in Washington will go a long way to showing what sort of team this is, and what we can expect going forward. And if this team wants to prove me wrong, and show that Saturday's masterpiece is the new norm, I'll be very very glad to be wrong.
I followed it up the next day with the following setup for the Washington road trip:
To sum it up, the Bruins have a huge opportunity to erase doubts this week just by getting a split. Finishing the last 6 games with a 3-3 record will be OKAY, but it will make all of us feel hell of a lot better if we can close it out either on a 5-1 or 4-2 note.
Can the Bruins break through?
Did we break through?
If I had not watched the games and went purely by the box scores, the answer would be an emphatic yes. The answer becomes tentative and possibly an uncertain one if we take into account what we saw on the court.
On Thursday night, we did not get slaughtered. We played hard for most of the game against a very poorly coached underachieving basketball program, but eventually let the game slip away due to a combination of costly mistakes. Then yesterday, Bruins had to scramble and escape against a middle of the pack team in a weak Pac-10 conference, which was playing without two of its key stars.
We saw the same Bruin team that gave less than 40 minutes of good basketball during the entire season except for three key games at Pauley (USC, St. Johns, and Arizona). Arguably we didn't play 40 minutes of good basketball against St. Johns but I am trying to be charitable here.
So let's go back to gbruin's original question. Do we know what kind of team we have at the end of this regular season? I think the answer is unclear.
On paper the way the Bruins finished the season in their last 6 games gets them a B+. That grade is inflated though given the fact we were taking on an undermanned Washington State team. What also stands out that the "other team" in Los Angeles, also finished that stretch with a record of 5-1, sweeping the Bay Area road trip, and a fairly convincing win over Washington Huskies. Kevin O'Neil has been saying some nice things about the Bruins lately. I can be dismissing of his comments as self-serving praise from a Trojan, but if I were to be an intellectually honest Bruin, I would also consider asking myself whether that other school has the best "team" (emphasis on ‘team') in Los Angeles.
Think about that. I will present another thing for all you to think about.
This will be tough on lot of folks here but let's throw it out in an attempt of being honest with ourselves. Bruin Blue's guest blog caused a stir on Friday night when he raised uncomfortable questions about Ben Ball. The truth is I don't know the answer to that question. I think "Ben Ball" can work when there is total buy in from every key player in the program. When I say total "buy in" I mean a commitment to the basic tenets of Howland's vision of basketball which is based on defense, fundamentals, and rebounding. So with that in mind has there been buy in our basketball program since Arron Afflalo's last season UCLA?
- 2007-08 - arguably there was no buy in from Josh Shipp during that season, which was a hot topic of discussion on number of Bruin online communities.
- 2008-09 - there was no buy in from Shipp, Nikola Dragovic, Jrue Holiday, Drew Gordon, Jerime Anderson
- 2009-10 - I don't think I need to provide details on this one.
- 2010-11 - No buy in from Tyler Honecyutt or Reeves Nelson
We have had four straight years of UCLA basketball in which the players' had not fully bought into the head coach's vision. It is unclear to me whether we will have total buy in next season, as uncertainty looms around who will stick around after this off season and whether they will come back fully committed to Howland's vision of UCLA basketball ("Ben Ball" as we know it).
I don't mean to raise all these question to depress folks. I am only raising them because I want to be honest with how I feel about UCLA basketball. On paper Howland's team has met the bare minimum expectations for this season. That is good and Howland certainly deserves credit for that. But I am looking at the big picture and wondering whether the countdown clock on the right hand side of that blog with Howland's name on it will stop any time soon.
ALL OF US HERE are hoping the answer will be a positive one but many of us (especially on the front-page) are still not certain.