Ben Howland: about to miss the tournament for the third time. Steve Lavin? Only missed it once. Coach K? Only missed it once (and he was on medical leave). Fans in Lexington, Chapel Hill, Durham, and Lawrence wouldn't tolerate this, so why do we?
With baseball in full swing, we've decided to make a bit of a programing change, with Bruin Bites shifting out of its normal Sunday evening slot to early Monday morning. So, instead of skimming the various pieces of news from around the UCLA-iverse at the tail-end of your weekend, now you'll be getting these little morsels of UCLA information and news at the very beginning of your work week, so hopefully, it'll help you cope with the return to the office.
You know what doesn't make your Monday any easier? Ben Howland and the complete disaster that is this basketball season. We have a clueless, tone-deaf athletic director who got us stuck in an antiquated venue that no one wants to pay to watch a game in, coupled with a stubborn coach who is on the fast-track to barely making the NIT. It really begs the question: what does Howland have to do for Chianti Dan to hold him accountable? This kind of season would not be acceptable at Kentucky (see: Tubby Smith, who actually won a national title, unlike Ben), North Carolina (see: Matt Doherty), or Kansas (see: Ted Owens). It certainly wouldn't fly in Durham (Duke has missed the tournament only once, the 1994-95 season when Coach K was on medical leave, since the 1983-84 season). At UCLA, since Harrick took over for the 1988-89 season, UCLA has missed the tournament only three times: two of those belong to Howland, and this year will certainly be his third. Watching this year's train-wreck every weekend certainly does not make the work week any easier, that's for sure.
But with that, let's take a look at the bits and pieces of news from around the UCLA-iverse to start off the work week:
- Jumping right into the complete and total disaster that is Dan Guerrero's and Ben Howland's dumpster fire basketball program, after yesterday's choke job in the Tucson desert against a pretty mediocre Arizona
WildcatsMildcats (especially compared to prior Arizona teams), the good folks at Bruin Ball project, using StatSheet, to go to the NIT as a seven seed. Ben Howland's sorry season is good enough to come in at #119 in the country, by StatSheet's ranking, giving UCLA an outside opportunity, as a freaking seven-seed in the freaking NIT, to finish as the nation's 69th best team. Here's some of the basketball giants that StatSheet does project going to the real tournament: Colorado State, Akron, Long Island, Drexel, Texas-Arlington, Savannah State, SDSU, Oral Roberts, Stony Brook. All while UCLA, the program with 11 national titles and a truck-load of guys in the NBA (including two playing in yesterday's All-Star game) is going to the NIT. As a seven-seed. And apparently, this is acceptable to some people. Facepalm.
- Turning to the football program, which has some life thanks to Jim Mora and his staff's recruiting exploits (although ultimate judgment is reserved for when we see if this team can win games on the field), Athlon Sports ranks the Bruins' recruiting haul at #15 in the nation, behind fellow Pac-12 teams Stanford (#7) and U$C (#10). While Athlon doesn't give Ellis McCarthy the kind of love we think he should have (they rate him only the #4 DT prospect in the nation), it's just another data-point that UCLA has elite football talent on the roster, so there will be no excuse for Mora not to field a winning product.
- While UCLA's basketball program is in tatters, our women's softball team, which started strong before struggling this weekend, will hopefully return to the level of dominance we saw under former coach Sue Enquist, who was interviewed and profiled this past week by the Columbia Daily Tribune. The ten-time national champion (as either an assistant coach, co-head coach, or head coach) for UCLA, talked about her admiration for Coach Wooden, how low-budget the program was when she arrived, and the annual trip she would make with her squad to Encino to visit the legend in person.
- On the subject of former UCLA head coaches, Rick Neuheisel has officially put his Bel-Air pad (about 10 minutes from campus) on the market. The selling price? $4.995 million, which will get you 6,000 square feet in Bel-freakin'-Air. The best part of this story? His real estate agent is Cindy Ambuehl. Who is she? She's the actress who played Jerry Seinfeld's girlfriend who thought she got gonorrhea from a tractor. Classic episode.
- Finally, flipping back to football news, another professional athlete "Jr." is taking a look at Westwood: Torii Hunter, Jr., the son of the former Twins' (and current Angels') outfielder, is planning on making an unofficial visit to UCLA. The Texas WR has already received offers from Arkansas, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma State, and with Noel Mazzone and the spread offense coming to Westwood, UCLA is now attracting his attention as well.
Alright folks, those are your bits and pieces of news from around the UCLA-iverse. Fire away in the comment threads with your thoughts, additions, and other interesting UCLA-related notes.