The Bruins are a few hours away from taking the court in what may be their final game of national (broadcast) import of the 2012 season, in Madison Square Garden against St Johns. DC Bruins' preview of the game went up yesterday morning, where he gave a rundown of St John's current standing in the Big East and where their roster stands at this point in the season. With a rotation composed entirely of players in their first year in the Big Apple, it has been a tough season for the Johnies, though they have played Duke and Georgetown close in recent weeks. They have also played most of the season without their head coach, as Steve Lavin has missed all but 2 games while undergoing further treatment for prostate cancer. Mike Dunlap has been leading St Johns on the court in Lavin's absence.
Safe to say that CBS is not getting the hot late season non-conference matchup that it was expecting when it claimed this game, but that is not stopping the Bruins from enjoying their time in the public eye, in one of the meccas of basketball.
"It's good for the program," Howland said. "To have it on CBS is always special. I think our players were really excited. We got to practice in the Garden today and that's a big deal. Every great player who has played this game has played in the Garden."
As Jerime Anderson put it to the LA Times:
"Madison Square Garden, it's a Mecca. It's a place you always want to play."
The Bruins enjoying their time in MSG includes Anthony Stover, who - after missing the Southern Cal game - was able to practice on Friday and should be able to play this afternoon. Tyler Lamb was also able to practice without issue. There was no word on whether Coach Howland noticed Brendan Lane's presence on the team flight out of LAX or his room in the team hotel.
As we have stressed over the past weeks, the performance of this Bruins team of 2011-12 is far below any reasonable standard that a team hailing from Westwood can be judged by. And while they have struggled away from southern California, they face a young St Johns team, in a format in which UCLA has a lengthy history - in the last 25 years, the Bruins have played in 42 non-conference games shown by one of the main broadcast networks (going 24-18).
In a more specific-detail oriented note, Coach Howland and the rest of the UCLA coaches will be taking the court at MSG wearing basketball shoes in lieu of the normal dress attire in honor and in support of Steve Lavin's battle with prostate cancer - and typically the signature of college basketball's Coaches v. Cancer week.
"I thought it was appropriate that we all wear our basketball shoes tomorrow in honor of Steve and him being a cancer survivor and bring more awareness to cancer," Howland said. "Cancer affects all of us. Everybody has someone that they love that's been affected by it."
The game tips off at 10am PST and will be broadcast on CBS.