Maybe this is a good symbol for how screwed up this season is so far. This year's Wooden classic, traditionally a two game doubleheader non-conference pairing of games, is a conference game against our biggest basketball rival. Really Chianti Dan, you could not leverage the great Wooden name? You had to make it the game that preseason looked like our best to get a big crowd? I guess the only good thing is it will not be played in
Sports funeral Arena. Coach Ben Howland tries to put a good face on Chianti Dan's latest failure:
The Wooden Classic is an annual tribute to UCLA's legendary coach that has been played each year since 1994, but this is the first time it will feature the Bruins playing a conference game and the first time the Wooden Classic will be only one game. . . .
"It's different, but I'm glad that we're honoring Coach and keeping that alive," coach Ben Howland said. "I think it's important."
Of course it is very important that UCLA honor the only person we will call Coach. But we should do a much better job of honoring. Unfortunately for CBH, the game is also very important. It is "must win" to prevent UCLA from going to 0-3 in conference.
It is imperative that coach Ben Howland has the Bruins prepared and ready to play some inspired ball on Thursday against Arizona in a Pac-12 game at the Honda Center Anaheim. UCLA is already 0-2 in conference play. Another loss could be devastating for a team that had aspirations of making the NCAA Tournament down the road in March.
Arizona and UCLA are a contrast in styles:
"Arizona is a very hard team for us to match up with," Howland said. "Basically we're playing against five guards."
The Wildcats have no starter taller than 6-foot-7 forwardJesse Perry, and they start three guards.
Somehow, UCLA's taller, heavier and slower-footed lineup must figure out ways to guard against quickness.
That sounds like a team that needs to play a lot of zone, right?
A couple of players will also be key for UCLA. In addition to Lazeric Jones needing to win the PG matchup, Tyler Lamb will likely have to play big on the offensive side. Lamb has been a pleasant, although inconsistent, surprise on offense. Hopefully he can put together a big game but according to CBS he is the number 2 key:
The Bruins need to find creative ways to get the ball into the hands of starting SG Tyler Lamb during Thursday's Pac-12 game against Arizona at the Honda Center in Anaheim. He has been as hot as they come in recent weeks and scored a career-high 26 points against Cal last week. Coach Ben Howland hinted that Lamb will be the No. 1 option.
Of course, the pre-season number one option has to continue to improve as well:
Howland said he hopes as the season progresses that sophomore center Josh Smith, whose weight seems substantially heavier than the listed 305 pounds, would be able to get more minutes per game - he is averaging 18.1 - and also more shots.
"Josh is sixth on the team in shots," Howland said, "and I envisioned him as being in the top two this season."
But it may still be too early for Josh to take that role. Maybe by the PAC 12 Tourney?
UCLA coach Ben Howland says sophomore center Joshua Smith still has conditioning work to do. "He's still quite a ways away,'' Howland said. "He's only playing 20 minutes a game. He's done a good job the last couple days. Part of his conditioning issues affect him in terms of foul trouble. We got to keep him in the game better. .... We just want to get the most we can get out of him for the minutes that he's in the game." Smith averages 9.4 points and 5.4 rebounds.
But CBH knows he can't cry over spilled milk (or too many eaten pieces of pizza):
"It is what is," Howland said. "We're 0-2 and disappointed."
And that disappointing start doesn't allow UCLA any time for reflection about the missed opportunities on either side of San Francisco Bay.
"We're 0-2 and we need to come out and play really well to have success and we understand that," Howland said. "But I'm not going to do the 'what ifs.' "
Hopefully the spirit of Wooden will inspire UCLA to play at a higher level. Even if Chianti Dan screwed up the Wooden classic maybe CBH and this year's players won't.