Who Will Be Next To Flee Ben Howland’s Miserable & Irrelevant UCLA Program?

Will Powell flee the coop like many others from Howland's miserable program? (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Well so much for the argument that UCLA playing in a garbage tournament like the NIT could be helpful for the Bruin program because it will give young players a chance to get meaningful minutes. As noted by DC Bruins, last night playing against the worst JustSC team in decades, Howland once again ran up the minutes of his starters. He drove up their mins to the point that he let an injured Tyler Lamb play 34 minutes.

Howland played Norman Powell - the talented freshman - for just 15 minutes [boxscore]. He did not even bother putting in Brendan Lane. Apparently Anthony Stover is still suffering from a mysterious injury. From Tracy Pierson at BRO (article not behind premium subscription firewall as I blog this):

UCLA beat USC, 64-54, but it was a very strange game.

There were quite a few head-scratchers - things that you just can't explain.

Of course, the biggest elephant in the room is: With a team that's obviously showing fatigue, Ben Howland played all five starters 33+ minutes, against perhaps the worst team in the Pac-12 and one of the worst teams in Division 1. The Bruins were up by 20 points at times, but Howland stuck with his starters. He only played two other players - Josh Smith and Norman Powell - and they played just 15 and 11 minutes.

In his post-game comments, Howland stressed that he was very worried about losing this game, and that the Trojans kept hanging in, and that led him to playing his starters so extensively. When asked about Anthony Stover not playing at all, if it had to do with his injured ankle, he pretty much avoided the question, saying, "No, you know what, that was just more, uh...you know he came back Monday, and was little off, but he's going to play. I just went with the Wears tonight for the most part. If you see their minutes, they played a lot of minutes, and executed well. But yeah, definitely he'll play. "

On Smith's lack of minutes: "I thought Josh really got caught playing against the smalls a lot. It was tough for him defensively, from the standpoint of ending up guarding #33 (Garrett Jackson) a number of times."

Baffling.

Baffling and boring. I tried my best watching the game last night, staying up past bed time here in the East Coast. I fell asleep few times because the quality of basketball was so freaking ugly and unwatchable. It wasn't helping the fact that Donnie Mac was sounding tonedeaf, when he tried to parrot party line of how this disgraceful season can still be "interesting" for UCLA.

When I watched our guys - I saw something that has been pretty apparent for anyone closely tracking this team for last few years. Our guys look miserable. They look unhappy on the court. They almost look disengaged and disgusted with the toxic vibe around this program on the sidelines. Stover and Lane, who have been doing their best to cheer on their team-mates, looked despondent on the bench. The looked lifeless. Joshua Smith looks like someone who just hates the game. While everyone else on the court looked to be going through the motions against a crippled, outmanned, and (usually) irrelevant basketball program.

While watching the game - I kept coming back to one question. How many of our guys will actually return to play for Howland's miserable program. There are few fans who are hoping for a miraculous resuscitation of the Howland era in UCLA through the arrival of bunch of 5 star mercenaries such as Shabazz Muhammad, Tony Parker and Kyle Anderson. Many of us honestly don't care what Shabazz and Parker will decide. It won't matter because their one year "service" will be nothing more than lipstick on this pig. The question is who will be left as their "team-mates" when they arrive in Westwood?

After the end of last season, there was a lot of "hope" following that "moral victory" against Florida. There were people dreaming of a wire to wire top-10 season. Then reality caught up when Malcolm Lee and Tyler Honeycutt became the latest Bruins to flee Howland's nest. No, they didn't leave because they were sure fire first round picks. They left because they did not want to spend an extra minute in Howland's joyless program. They made the same decisions as numerous other players who either jumped to the pros early or just ran to another NCAA program.

So who is it going to be next year? Will Powell bother to come back in a program where he has been miserable and mismanaged all season? Or should he run when there is still time and prosper at a place like San Diego State (his hometown team) or at UNLV?

Why should Stover come back for another miserable season in Westwood when he knows that Howland is not going to give him any mins due to his unhealthy Dragovic like infatuation with the Wear Twins? He has all the tools to emerge as a dominating defensive enforcer with more upside than PAA. Why should be come back at UCLA to tweet and ride the pine, when some other program will love to use his skills?

There is of course Lane, who has been mismanaged through all his career at UCLA. He reportedly is scheduled to get his degree by the end of this year. It may not be a bad idea for him to seek a transfer to another Pac-12 program, offering graduate course not available at UCLA. I imagine a great coach like Mike Montgomery will find a way to utilize his talent in the Cal program.

Those are the questions UCLA alums, students and fans who care about the Bruin program, should be wondering as the disgraceful 2011-12 stumbles to a pathetic end. It doesn't really seem to be worth it to put all our hopes in the shoulder of mercenaries, when a toxic atmosphere continues to persist in Howland's deeply infected and irrelevant program in Westwood.

If you are in New York City and have a chance to interact with Chianti this weekend, may want to bring this issue up when he puts out his BS spin about "Howland and his charges."

GO BRUINS.

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