As much as I’m a sports warrior who wants to take on any opponent, anytime, anywhere, I am against UCLA participating in the NIT. My reason is simple; time.
Unlike the rationale that was presented by some for the Bruins going to the Kraft Hunger Bowl (extra practice time for coaches and players, reward for seniors, etc.) the NIT provides none of those things.
Our seniors know that the NCAA is the prize and having missed that, I’m not seeing any comments that would lead one to believe that they are anxious for redemption via the NIT.
And, I see the most precious commodity that needs to be carefully used to the fullest is time. Time for the coaching staff (who I assume, barring something unexpected will be the same staff) to reflect on what worked and what didn’t work this season. And gosh knows there was plenty that didn’t work.
If they need to go away on a retreat with individual homework assignments to complete before they go (assign each of them to look at tape of 5 of the best and 5 of the worst games and build a detailed report on what worked/didn’t) – do that.
If they need to spend time watching top ranked teams and their coaches to see how they do what they do to be successful – do that.
If they need to get coached by more successful coaches on how to change what they have been doing with the team – do that.
If they need help from a sports therapist so that they can more effectively communicate and connect with the players – do that.
If they need to spend intensive time after all of the above building individual expectations, training, nutrition and skill development plans for each player and then sit down individually with the player (and their parents if necessary) to review and get the player to sign a commitment form – do that.
Each player should leave for the Spring/Summer knowing exactly what the coaches will want to see when that player returns whenever they return. And players should know up front a clear set of consequences (like lack of playing time) if they don’t take their off-season development seriously.
The coaching staff needs to script every second of every day from now until the next game in the Fall of 2012 to do whatever needs to be done to recruit, develop, renew, rebuild, change, reflect, communicate and whatever else that is necessary for the most storied, but currently irrelevant, basketball program in College to return to its rightful place at the top of the rankings.
Said more simply, U.C.L.A. basketball doesn’t have the time to waste on the NIT.