I was confused this season by Howland's continued insistence on playing man-to-man in all situations when zone made sense from time to time, his insistence on calling timeouts to kill his own team's momentum, his favoritism to the double Wear lineup, his driving off Smith and Lamb.
Now it is clear that there was a purpose. Per Howland's reaction to getting a 6 seed in Austin, "I'd rather be a 12 seed right now, playing in San Jose."
This explains it all. The only problem was poor execution of the strategy. UCLA won too many games. For this, the players must be blamed. Howland clearly did not win games with fabulous advance scouting, astute substitutions, and on-the-fly adjustments. Darn those players.
Howland's 12 seed strategy has been several years in the making. He overshot the mark the past couple of seasons, driving the team not only below the 12 seed but right out of the tournament.
This season, we had the home loss to Cal Poly SLO, the home loss to $C, the rout at home to Oregon, and the loss at WSU. If only we could have lost that overtime game at home to UC Irvine, the 12 seed strategy might have worked.
But the other Pac-12 coaches were onto Howland's strategy, and one upped him. Sean Miller managed to coach his team to 3 losses in 3 tries against Howland. The NCAA committee rewarded this coaching with games in Salt Lake City.
Dana Altman tried to engineer a tailspin when Dominic Artis went down. The team overcame this, and won the conference tourney. But thankfully, they had been swept the last weekend of the regular season at Colorado and Utah. The NCAA committee reacted by giving them games in San Jose (and a coveted 12 seed).
Mike Montgomery shoved a player on TV, hoping to get at least a one game suspension, and increasing the chances of a weak finish. When that didn't work, they simply lost big at home to Stanford. The NCAA committee reacted by giving them games in San Jose also (and another of the coveted 12 seeds).
Too bad, Ben. Once again, you were outcoached.