Getting the Bruins, and Bruins Nation, On the Same Page

I couldn't figure out this basketball team.  But that was ok.  I knew where to go.  It was like those days and nights long ago in the BioMed library.  The answers were in there, and I knew where to look (and that was before PubMed and the internet).

So for my basketball questions, I went looking through Bruins Nation.  BN never let me down...before.

Going back just the last few weeks, the Bruins, save Malcolm Lee, were a terribly unprepared group that went to Cal, didn't play the first 20 minutes, and got singlehandedly finished off in OT by a guy named Jorge who put his hair in a bun and then spent the night looking like Michael or Kobe.  Hell, Michael and Kobe, put together.  And I thought I knew what we were.

And it seemed true when we squeaked by the last place team in the conference.  But then we played Arizona and absolutely killed the best team and player in the conference and it wasn't even close.  The Bruins in Pauley were dominant like Russia in the winter, and the blood of Coach healed all our wounds.  It was a perfect performance.  And I hoped that's who we really were.

So then we went to Seattle with a chance to win the conference, but couldn't hold a lead in the last few minutes.  P wrote we started tough but we just can't finish.  So that was the answer, right?    But then we went to a building where we hadn't lost in 17 years, against a team missing its two best players, and started anything but tough.  But in the end, the Bruins did play BenBall and finished.  It was such an ugly win, that Coach Howland was inspired to kiss Jon Gold, who is definitely no song girl.  But maybe Howland had finally reached this team.  Maybe that's who we were.

Our recent guest blogger BruinBlue said we can't get any further with Howland.  Well, surely that's wrong because Howland led a bunch of future NBA'ers to 3 straight Final Fours.  But then again, if those guys didn't get over the hump and bring another banner back to Westwood, maybe BruinBlue was right after all. Maybe we were never what I thought.  And then yesterday Achilles asked whether we were even the best team in Los Angeles.  Damn, we're awful!

Then DC's yin and yang this morning had me swinging back and forth so fast between the positives and the negatives that I just got dizzy and went to lie down and take a nap.  Hello geezerdom.  And I still I don't understand this team at all.

Our Bruin Basketball team continues to perplex us all, and reading the posts and threads here on BN demonstrates that every day. For every "Hooray! We won 22 games, we are going to the tourney, we met expectations" there is a "Boo! We blew it at Cal and almost at WSU and we should always go to the tourney so why are we celebrating mediocrity?"

And of course, depending on what question you are asking, both sides are right.  Or wrong. Or it's the opposite that is true. Which is really the problem.  Are you even still with me?

18 weeks into the basketball season, and this team looks to be getting better. The team that started 3-4 and lost to Montana finished as a 22 win team and was in the running for the Pac-10 title on the last weekend of the season. Credit Howland for instilling his system, and Reeves for learning some defense, and Lee for becoming a shutdown defender, and Zeek and Josh and Jerime for filling their roles better than we could have hoped.  We're even making free throws.  This is more than we asked for, and more than I personally expected. I have to be happy with this, right?

On the other hand, 18 weeks into the season and we still aren't getting a consistent effort for 40 minutes. Reeves is a leader on the score sheet, but his actions still do not show him as a leader on the floor and locker room. Lee is our Captain and canned some huge clutch FT's in Pullman, but do you ever see Lee getting in his teammates faces to pick them up and exhort them to a better effort. Honeycutt is All Pac-10, but when was the last time he looked like it for 2 games in a row? Howland is kissing reporters (sure Gold does a great job, but what would N deserve after his years of effort here - umm, never mind) in celebration of winning 22 games. Are we that giddy at U.C.L.A. for winning 22 games and worrying about a tourney berth in early March?

I have realized that the answer to all these questions is yes, and no, and 42, and that there is no answer.  This team is all the above and none of the above, and we are killing ourselves trying to define it, because it just cannot be done right now.  So I'm not going to ask anymore.  Well, not until the season is over with at least, because right now is tournament time.  Our hand has been dealt, and it can fold before the flop or it can break the bank.  Our job now is to support this team like crazy, and worry about the coach and the PF and the PG and the SF and the NBA when it's all said and done this year.  Because then, just maybe, we'll have some answers.

In the meantime, we need to all be asking the same questions here, because I think we'll find a lot more agreement that way.  Was last year an aberration which should never happen in Westwood?  An easy yes.  Given our projections and fears at the start of this year after Montana, are we happy that we've reached this point?  I think we would all say yes to that.  Are we satisfied with U.C.L.A. being a bubble team late in the year and having ongoing questions about personnel and discipline?  I bet we'd all say no.  See?  It's easy to get along.

I want to find some common ground and unity among Bruins Nation. A good young Bruin fan called me out on this this week, and was exactly right.  Unfortunately, the topsy turvy yin yang world of Bruins Basketball in the last couple years, let alone the last couple months, has got us all reeling, and in the chaos, inadvertently firing on each other.  

So let's keep this in mind as we go forward. We're all Bruins and we all want to see our programs do well. We may have different ideas on how to achieve that, and we will continue to rely on the myriad of passionate and educated voices here to dissect those issues and crunch the data and offer solutions.  But for now, it looks like only time will be able to answer my questions.  Tournament time, that is.

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