So is everyone excited? After being out of action for 8 days Ben Howland's basketball team gets back at it against the vaunted Trojans of JustSC at the Costco Center on the other side of town. Beating Trojans is one of the core components of being a Bruin. But, beating the Trojans in basketball should never really be a big deal. There is a reason why we call them "JustSC" - a term immortalized J.R.
Henderson Sakuragi, during Jim Harrick's time at UCLA.
Yet as DC Bruins pointed out Howland's pathetic record against the Trojans have been shockingly dismal. The ugly track record was punctuated by the latest loss at Pauley where the Trojans under an interim coach dominated an uninspired and disinterested Bruin bunch, before holding on for an OT win. What is just as appalling is that the Trojans who are not in the same league as this UCLA team, when it comes to overall talent have the same record as the Bruins (5-4) under its interim head coach.
Bruins on paper should dominate and win the game today. Yes, Travis Wear is banged up. But, so what. A coach who is a great manager of personnel would have talented backup with higher ceiling ready to go. Right? Plus LDII was on record after the debacle against the Trojans that he wants to go out and "kill" the Trojan. So our team is supposed to be all fired up and ready to ball out this afternoon. Right? Guess, we will see when we turn on the TV today and try to muster up as much interest as possible to watch Howland's joyless program. Here are some key reads for this am:
- One of the key factors to keep an eye out this afternoon will be rebounding. Trojans outrebounded the Bruins by 44-36 in the first game. But with his mercenary days almost over, Shabazz Muhammad has been playing with an increased sense of urgency to ensure a big NBA payday in the upcoming draft. He has been averaging about 7 rebounds per game in our last 4. If he can keep pulling them down, it could be a difference maker today. More from Peter Yoon at ESPNLA.
- Ryan Kartje has a profile piece on LDII making "peace" with his "rocky past" from UNC. Good for him but not sure he is still the kind of pg and a leader on the court in the mold of Tyus Edney, JF or DC - the guys who took us to the Final-4. Perhaps he is. He will have to be if Howland wants to make a last ditch run to return to Westwood or impress his future employers (i.e. schools like Pittsburgh, UConn, Utah, Washington State, St. Johns (!) etc).
- So it's not just LDII. Kyle Anderson is looking to celebrate and do "that extra stuff" on the middle of Trojan's home court after this afternoon's game. The freshmen enthusiasm is awesome but I wish someone also let Kyle know ... well those guys are "JustSC" or show him clips of JF's comments at the Final-4 that UCLA doesn't hang Final-4 banners at Pauley. Trojans should always be an automatic win for UCLA when it comes to basketball. But in the current dismal state of Howland's basketball program it is apparently now a BFD.
- Lastly, Chris Foster has a story on the "rivalry" between UCLA and Southern Cal in basketball by keying on Ron Holmes, Shabazz's Dad who is a Trojan alum. Apparently Holmes' Trojan team beat UCLA twice in his senior year while he was at Southern Cal (1981-85). That was also another dark period of UCLA basketball when it was being led by hapless coaches hired on by a hapless athletic department. What's new there. Right? Still what's noteworthy that despite being led by an incompetent athletic department UCLA has managed to win 8 conference titles since 1985 (which is not enough) while the Trojans have won nothing. Yet according the Trojan Times somehow this is a "rivalry." Whatever.
The tip-off is set for 12:36 PST and the game will be on Fox Sports Net. Let's have fun I guess. Game thread will be up in due time. Again, remember this is basketball ... it's Just$C.