We have been writing for a while that Ben Howland is gone after the season. We wrote it during and after the ten game win-streak. But we still have Dan Guerrero as AD which is why Howland was not fired for losing three out of the last four (despite an 8 game break) or having only seven scholarship players available for one of those losses despite only having one player of the top seven in minutes this year miss a game due to injury.
So is there a way Dan "I-wanted-to-give-Rick-Neuheisel-one-more-chance-because-he-‘won'-the-Pac 12- South, 0-50 not-withstanding" Guerrero let's Ben Howland keep his job? I think Jack Wang does a good job answering the question of the chances of Howland saving his job:
Not good. Barring a something like a Final Four, he's almost certainly gone. That UCLA has fallen into bubble territory doesn't help his chances for a job-saving finish. The Bruins are also shaping up to be a No. 8 or 9 seed, which would pair them up with a No. 1 seed in the second round.
I agree with Jack and Brackectology has us a 7 seed right now. In any case we are looking like an NCAA tournament team that fans should be nervous about booking their hotel room for the weekend game. But although I think the chances of UCLA making the final four are slim and none and slim has left the building, let's lay out what it would take. In other words, what is the way Howland could save his job?
1. Dan Guerrero keeps his. Guerrero's contract is up March 31. Guerrero hates firing coaches, see the Rick example above. If Guerrero is fired, then any new AD would certainly clean house. But step one for Howland to save his job is Guerrero saving his. (And another reason to fire Guerrero.)
2. Seeded in The West. Good news for Howland is he always performs to seed in the tournament and all three final four runs have came from out West Region. More good news for Howland and UCLA is the regional final is in Los Angeles. Thus for Howland to even have a pipe dream of a final four, UCLA would have to be the top seed in the PAC 12 in the eyes of the committee and stay home. For this to happen, UCLA must do well in the PAC 12 tournament and likely win the conference to be the PAC 12 team that stays in the West.
3. Winning the PAC 12 Conference. This seemed impossible last week but even after losing three of the last four that looks better today. Ironically for Howland, Dominic Artis's injury offers Howland a slim reed of hope. For those who don't remember Dominic briefly announced he was going to UCLA and then changed his mind and attended Oregon. Dominic is the type player that Bruins fans like Tydides have been bemoaning for years, a true point guard. While Artis was not shooting particularly well for Oregon he was clutch and leading them in assists. Since Artis has been hurt Oregon is 1-2 and 0-2 on the road.
Oregon which was a lock to win the PAC 12 just a week ago may fall apart for lack of a point guard. Oregon is now 7-2 in conference to UCLA's 6-3. Oregon wins any tiebreak over UCLA (or Arizona) so Oregon would have to keep losing. Unthinkable previous to the Artis injury but maybe now there is an opening.
Next, if UCLA beats Arizona at Pauley, UCLA would own any tiebreak over Arizona. Thus UCLA could conceivably win the conference (providing its beats Arizona) and still lose maybe one more game. As regular season champion UCLA would be decently positioned to stay home in the West.
4. Winning the PAC 12 Conference Tournament. This is one that is hard for me to imagine a scenario that even Howland believes he can win. Even if UCLA were the number one seed, UCLA would have to win three games in three days. Why do I find that hard to imagine? Again, let's cite Wang in response to a question on Tony Parker's minutes (emphasis mine):
I said his minutes couldn't go down from what he was getting prior to Travis Wear's concussion, and it seems that he's now reverted back to that level of use. After losses, Ben Howland now often says he isn't using his bench enough, but that hasn't translated to increased minutes for anyone (although bench players have often been ineffective when put in as well). Hard to see Parker carving out a consistent role for himself unless someone gets injured.
UCLA is a 7.5 man team. Hard to believe they can win a three consecutive day tournament with a bench that is underused now. UCLA's best reasonable hope would be to cruise in the opening round game and play a more tired team, like a 5 seed Stanford, in the second game on one of those nights that Stanford could not score in an empty stadium. But even that does not work out in the championship game. But then again, in this pathetic conference, anyone can win the tournament. Thus, UCLA is okay even after losing in the championship game and gets the highest seed out west.
5. Getting to the final four. Howland's history in the tournament makes him easy to predict. Under Howland, UCLA has never made the final four as lower than a two seed. UCLA has never beaten a team that is more than one seed higher than them. So to get to the final four, UCLA needs a protected seed and a lot of upsets. If UCLA won the rest of games this year, including the PAC 12 tournament, a two seed would be possible. If UCLA wins the rest of games but one (and that one cannot be a loss to Arizona), UCLA maybe could make a top four seed. Even that would likely involve winning the PAC 12 tournament. Howland would have to get widely lucky in the tournament draw and have an upset to even dream of that.
Thus, Howlers don't give up. Howland can save his job if he wins the rest of the games this year in the pathetic 12. Those of you leaving in reality, enjoy what is left of the season without the worry of Ben Howland coming back. At least this is not as bad as the last seasons of Farmer, Lavin, or Hazzard as UCLA coach.
Howland is gone and that is a lock; the bigger question worry is Dan Guerrero. Hopefully he will join Howland for keeping this farce going to the end.