It's Monday morning, and once again, the weekend has to come to an end, and with it March Madness officially begins, with the bracket set and the tournament getting underway this week. And while the Bruins are back in the tournament, as discussed on Saturday, it seems more-and-more likely that this is the final stretch in Ben Howland's farewell tour. Surprisingly, the Bruins choked to a mediocre Ducks team that won its first conference tournament title, so we can thank Ben (again) for helping make history (the wrong kind) in Westwood. In any event, let's turn to the various bits and pieces of news from around the UCLA-iverse, which are pretty much all focused on soon-to-be-ex-coach Ben Howland:
- Infamously slow-to-the-party Bill Plaschke at the Los Angeles Times has joined in with the other folks covering UCLA hoops, dropping note that it sounds like the power-brokers behind the scenes at UCLA (read: the well-heeled alums, not Chianti Dan) are lining up the funds to pay for Howland's buy-out. Coupled with the rumors noted by CBS Sports' Jeff Goodman a few days ago, plus the unconfirmed rumors we have heard, it seems more-and-more likely that Dixon-to-Southern Cal, followed by Howland-to-Pitt is happening once both teams crash out from March Madness.
- The national media is starting to pick up on the Howland-out-of-Westwood chatter, with NBC Sports' Rob Dauster piggybacking on Plaschke's article, concluding that "[a]t some point, it’s not even about basketball anymore. People around the UCLA program may be fed up with Howland, and that’s enough to cost someone their job when he’s not winning the way UCLA expects him to win."
- If the Howland-to-Pitt rumors are true, then it's pretty apparent why Howland flipped out and got his first technical foul during his decade tenure in Westwood: preferring to stay in Westwood, it was as if Howland could feel that the (admittedly) bad call on Shabazz Muhammad was one more nail in his coffin at UCLA. It's not like Ben is a calm, laid-back guy: if the legion of players bailing out of Westwood as quickly as they can wasn't indicative, his court-side demeanor certainly makes it clear. Yet, despite that, he's never gotten a technical. Perhaps knowing coming-up-short would cost him his UCLA gig finally is showing signs in his demeanor. You know it's bad when non-sports-related-media, like Business Insider is posting the video and commenting on it.
So as we get this work week started, with the Bruins gearing up for a battle against the Minnesota Golden Gophers (ironically coached by Tubby Smith, more on that later this afternoon), it seems the major story isn't whether the Bruins will beat the Gophers (or more accurately, whether the Bruins will finally beat Florida once they get past Minnesota), but whether Ben Howland will, in fact, be taking his talents to Pittsburgh after the money-men in Westwood force Chianti Dan to "mutually agree" with Ben to go another direction.
Fire away with your thoughts this morning in the comment thread.