Bruin Bites: Cal Part II Edition

Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

The latest news surrounding the UCLA Bruins and the Pac-12 as the men's basketball team heads to NorCal for rematches with Cal and Stanford.

The Bruins embark on this season's bay area trip, starting with tonight's game at Cal. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:05pm Pacific time, with Bill Walton again providing the color for ESPN. For any Bay Area Bruins needing a last-minute V-Day plan and are willing to forego Big Red's discussion of the program, tickets are selling for as little as $2 + fees on StubHub.

In his piece for the Daily News, Jack Wang noted what we have all realized about this team - they really can't rebound.

In addition to ranking last in the conference in rebounding margin (minus-6.1 in league play), UCLA is outside the nation's top 200 in offensive rebounding percentage, a first in Howland's tenure. Consider they ranked as high as 10 th in the country and averaged out at No. 76 that during the Bruins' run of three consecutive Final Fours.

UCLA (18-6, 8-3) also has been bad on the defensive end, rebounding-wise.

The numbers don't seem to be improving. The team has been outrebounded by at least eight in five of its last six games, with Arizona State dominating the Bruins by an astounding 20 rebounds.

On the bright side, Cal has been nearly as bad on the boards this season.

Peter Yoon wrote a piece looking at how Shabazz Muhammad has dealt with the exposure of being the marquee player at UCLA, and the scrutiny that being one of the nation's elite prospects places him under. He seems to be handling it well.

It's true. Muhammad is a pretty stand-up guy. All season, he has stood up and answered questions about all the mini-controversies that have cropped up. He never has ducked any issues, never tried to make excuses and says he actually enjoys talking to the media. He has shown a level of maturity that makes it easy to forget he's still just 18 years old.

"If something is good and bad, you just have to continue to stay focused and stay humble, which I try to do all the time," Muhammad said. "It's something that I'm really getting used to and I'm just going to keep trying to play as hard as I can and work it out."

For all the talk of the selfishness of young players, Yoon identifies at the end of his piece - intentionally or not - the glamorization of that sort of attitude on the part of his employer and peers in sports media.

"I think I can facilitate, too," Muhammad said. "If some guy is open, I'm going to give the extra pass. There's no problem with that. ... If I don't look for the open guy, that looks bad on me. I'm just trying to win. I could care less about scoring. I'm an aggressive scorer, but I'm going to look for the open guy if they're open."

If he doesn't, it'll probably wind up on "SportsCenter."

The San Francisco Chronicle has used the weekend to make their editorial contribution to the 'selfish Shabazz' narrative, while setting up a battle among the Pac-12's two leading scorers, Muhammad and Cal's Allen Crabbe. Crabbe went crazy in the Bears' 77-69 win in Tuscon last weekend, scoring 33 points on 12-15 shooting from the field. He was at the peak of his confidence in that game against Arizona, but is very affected by his struggles - which really became evident in the game prior, a loss to ASU.

Crabbe tends to get very, very down on himself when things aren't going well for him. He bears the burden of the opponent's best defensive efforts against him on a regular basis and his body language and obvious frustration seems to say, "What's a fellow to do?"

He was in that kind of mood in the previous game, at Arizona State a week ago, when his two turnovers in the final 41 seconds prevented Cal from having a chance to win a game it ended up losing 66-62.

For all of the importance of this road trip for the Bruins postseason chances, there will be plenty of pressure on Crabbe and his teammates tonight in their road into March.

At this point, Cal is on the outside of any serious NCAA tournament conversation. The Bears began the week in a four-way tangle for fifth place in the Pac-12, two games back of the leaders. Picked to finish third in the Pac-12 before the season, they are 8-9 since a 6-0 start. Until two weeks ago, they were 0-9 against teams in the top 100 of the RPI computer, which aids the NCAA selection committee in its evaluation of teams.

Hardly the stuff of an NCAA tournament resume.

Their win at Arizona was big, but with the previous week's win over Oregon looking less impressive now that Artis's importance to the Ducks has become clear, Monty and the Bears still have plenty of work to do in building an NCAA-worthy resume, and few remaining chances to bank quality wins in conference.

In writing about the Bruins (lack of) bench depth, Chris Foster notes the lack of Tony Parker in discussing Howland's very short bench.

Norman Powell watches from the bench, taking mental notes.

... "I watch the intensity, how we're playing," he says. "I enter and do the high-energy things."

Forward David Wear is another reserve who knows his role. It's the same as that of Travis, his twin brother who starts.

"I'm watching the pace, the way the refs are calling the game," says Wear, a junior. "I figure out how I'll guard guys."

This is UCLA's bench, the thin powder-blue line. Cameo appearances from freshman center Tony Parker aside, UCLA's depth starts and ends with Powell and Wear.

I'll let you all deal with the comments on D and Wear guarding a guy in your own way. The Bears will be honoring the late Pete Newell and 1940's-era player Andy Wolfe at halftime - funny that Cal always feels the need to schedule commemorations and other special events for their home games against UCLA teams - while trying to make a statement on national television.

And in other news, the Sporting News published the latest piece looking at how the Los Angeles football clownshow moved across town last fall.

There’s nothing left now. Nothing but the stark reality that the end is coming for Lane Kiffin at USC.

It’s only a matter of how much uglier it gets.

... The coach who really can’t afford another mistake last week strolled into a post-recruiting press conference and left little doubt that more are on the way.

He talked about a lack of commitment from high school players, and how the media—that’s right, the media—and the glorification of National Signing Day are to blame for prep stars changing their minds. Imagine that, the guy whose coaching reputation is media-fueled—because it sure isn’t results-fueled—is blaming the one thing that has kept him afloat in a cutthroat business where those lacking are quickly weeded out.

How else do you think he got the Oakland Raiders job; a job Al Davis wanted to give to Steve Sarkisian, but Sark turned him down and offered up his pal Kiffin—whose coaching resume wasn’t remotely worthy.

How else do you think Kiffin got the Tennessee job after imploding in less than two seasons in the NFL? ...

How else do you think Kiffin got the USC job, after racking up multiple NCAA violations in just 14 months at Tennessee and not winning a game of significance? ...

Say it isn't so, Sporting News!

GO BRUINS!

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