It's March Madness time people!!! Over here at BN we are all so over the moon about PAthetiC-12 champions that we are counting the hours till Ben Howland's Bruins tip off the postseason Vegas. So on that spirit here is a special PAthetiC-12 Champions edition of this week's hoops roundtable. Enjoy.
1. On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being "not excited" and 10 being "super excited(!") how do you feel about Ben Howland's 4th conference championship as the head coach of UCLA basketball?
Bellerophon: 1. Not excited at all. This is the classic example of short-term gain at the expense of long-term health of the program. We won arguably the worst major conference in America, and only because Oregon choked in Salt Lake City. This is on par with Neuheisel winning the Pac-12 South because U$C wasn't eligible.
AHMB: 1. Honestly, I've only watched a few games this season, and I don't know if I watched a single game from tip to buzzer. The team is talented, no doubt, but they don't seem to be enjoying themselves that much, and they definitely don't seem to be inspired to play hard by or for Howland.
freesia39: 1. I've watched practically every game this season, even on tape delay, and I get so frustrated watching, from the crazy timeouts being called (which he has done for years, it is magnified this year) to the ridiculous substitution patterns, to player management. I mean, you can see how excited I am in some games by the massive amount of giffage I'm posting in game threads. (I'm so excited! I'm so... scared...) I expected so much more. I'd be way more excited if we played consistent basketball. Maybe this should be a 1.5, since we do play some uptempo, but it's not enough to move towards a 2. We'd be at a solid 3 if bracketology had us in a region anywhere close to California.
Achilles: I barely care. I'm worn down from the ups and downs. I would like to add something: I have friends and relatives who are big UCLA fans who don't read the blogs or the message boards. They have no idea about any of the Howland stuff behind the scenes. All they know is that we're Pac 12 champs. They all seem happy. Maybe they have the right idea?
bruinclassof10: I'm excited for the players but overall, this felt like Neuheisel's PAC-12 South championship.
gbruin: I'm a 7ish, maybe more. At the start of the year, I legitimately thought this team could be one of the tops in the country, and we'd battle it out with the standard (hahahaha) for the Pac-12 title. Now that it's done, I'm happy we won, and really happy for the players. But the way we got there, and as bad as the conference was (6th in RPI in the country - yeesh!), it's not as gratifying as I had expected.
Nestor: I think I am around a 3. Maybe I will get worked up to around 5 if we win the PAthetiC-12 tourney title. We will see. As many have discussed our team is basically a Jekyll and Hyde bunch - who basically relies on self-motivation (ie being fired up for a big game in national spotlight) rather than sound, consistent fundamentals to win games. We have no idea what team we are going to get on a given night. While the team has the talent to go far in the conference tourney and March Madness (and I suspect it will go far enough to give Dan Guerrero an excuse not to do anything about the program), given it's horrific roller-coaster ride resulting in an underachieving season, I just don't care much at this point.
Tydides: Not a 1, so maybe a 2. We have, what, 31 of these things? That it's such a big deal to certain people is a pretty good indicator of how far the stature of the program has fallen, and that is a problem all by itself. Winning it is better than not winning it, but we all know how bad this conference is and how much help we needed from pretty much all the other "top" teams for this to happen, so you'll have to excuse me if I don't make more of it than it is.
2. Now compare your answer to question 1 to the vibe you had following Howland's first three conference championship runs at UCLA?
Bellerophon: 10. During those three Final Four run years, I couldn't get enough of Howland's basketball. I thought he was the man who'd get us Banner #12. Now, I groan at the thought of watching another painful season of joyless hoops under Howland's sinking program.
AHMB: I agree with Bellerophon. Howland's teams in those Final Four years were amazing to watch. Watching Howland's program fall apart the past few years has been disheartening. This year is a mirage, and Howland's reliance upon transfers and elite national recruits is unsustainable. Especially when the coach chases his players out of the program at the rate Howland has.
freesia39: I was that annoying person who talked UCLA basketball nonstop. I still am, it's just tempered with "well, you know..." "THREE FINAL FOURS!" "ALL-AMERICANS!" "AWESOME DEFENSE!" yeah that was an eternity ago. The hopes for #12 faded after the last Dragovic season.
Achilles: I was more excited earlier in Howland's tenure because I thought that we had a chance in the tournament. This team is not capable of playing six good games in a row, so even though we should get a nice seed, it's a false promise.
bruinclassof10: I was a high school senior who had just turned in my SIR to UCLA. That championship made me believe that I'd see a national championship while I was a student.
gbruin: Obviously there is no comparison. Those Bruin teams were a revelation at first, then a thing of beauty and pride and joy. I used to think #12 was a matter of time - when, not if - and I was more than happy and satisfied as a Bruin fan being in the national conversation every year. I never imagined that program could fall so far and so fast.
Nestor: Think about it this way. This year you are going to be the person in your office pool who will fill out two brackets - the "brain" picks and the "heart" picks. In Howland's first four years and during 1992, 95 and 97 seasons - when the Bruins were entering the Western Region as a protected seed, we didn't have to bother with making two pools. We all confidently filled out our brackets having the Bruins in the Final-4 and fell short only twice (92 and 97). When you don't have to fill out your brackets with "heart" picks, you are more than fired up about the tournament. That's when you can't get enough of college basketball. That's when you are tracking every elite teams to size up competitions. It's a whole different kind of energy and excitement. None of that exists around Howland's stale and joyless program at this point.
Tydides: As fans, second order effects really factor into perception. Momentum was on our side during the first few title runs. The first and second derivative of the trajectory of our program was undoubtedly positive and we saw a solid foundation for a lasting program being built before our eyes. With a few coaching departures and philosophy changes, it all unraveled breathtakingly fast, and momentum is no longer on our side. There's no sense of consistency from year to year, and our continued inability to sign point guards that haven't been other places first is a big reason for that.
3. Do you give a rat's behind the PAthetiC-12 conference tournament? Is your excitement level ratcheted up now that this tourney thing is in Vegas?
Bellerophon: Generally, I have been very supportive of Larry Scott's moves since taking over as the boss man for the conference. But this move to Vegas seems like a total failure to me. Obviously, playing at Staples gave us a major home-court advantage, which was nice. But I could see how that might not be fair to the rest of the conference, so rotating it would seem logical. Perhaps using various NBA venues (since you'd need increased seating) and go through a rotation of Staples Center (UCLA/U$C), Oracle Arena (Cal/Stanford), Pepsi Center (Colorado), Rose Garden (Oregon/Oregon State), Key Arena (Washington/WSU), and whatever the hell they call the Phoenix Suns' (Arizona/ASU) and Utah Jazz' (Utah) home arenas these days. This way, every conference team gets a chance to "host" the tournament, and each home state (after all, 10 out of the 12 schools are public universities) get to enjoy the economic benefits of hosting a major conference tournament (hotel/restaurant/tourism revenue boost). Instead, we are playing the tournament in a city that is host to exactly ZERO Pac-12 teams (but ironically, seems to be home of the Ben Howland Transfer All-Stars, A/K/A UNLV), and likewise, Nevada is getting the benefits of hosting. Seems kind of stupid to me.
AHMB: Las Vegas is always a good idea, but I won't be attending or paying much attention this year.
freesia39: I thought Vegas was weird. Yeah sure, a party locale for our students... who by the way, are studying for finals. That's probably more exciting and life defining than a run in the Pac-12 Tourney. I wish they rotated the venues.
Achilles: I give a rat's ass, I guess. I like the players on this team, pretty much. For their sake, I hope they keep winning games. I don't care about the location, it's not an issue for me that they are in Vegas.
gbruin: In a way, I think it's kind of cool that 4 conferences (Pac-12, Mtn West, WCC, WAC) are playing their tournaments in Vegas, and 3 will be going on at the same time. That could be a pretty wild week for a roadie. However, I've never been a big fan of the conference tournament idea in general, not just for us but for any conference. I'll be watching us as always, but I don't think a 3 day tourney should trump a 3 month season.
Nestor: Larry Scott has done a lot of cool things and has the whole conference on the right track. I had my reservations about the expansion but have been happy with how it has been working out and the revenue it has generated for UCLA and the conference (although it has given certain bureaucrats cover in terms of making excuses for their ineptitude and lack of vision). That said, I don't really get having this tourney in Vegas. I never cared about conference tourneys anyway because I thought they were designed to benefit teams who underachieved or didn't get it done during the regular season. But the Pac-12 tourney being in Vegas just sounds weird. I am definitely not going to take time out during work day to watch any of the games including ours. I will watch ours if they are on during regular evening slots or if we make it to Saturday. Otherwise, meh.
Tydides: Never been a fan of the conference tournament, but now that we have an unbalanced schedule, I suppose it's more important as it becomes the only "fair" way to award a championship. That doesn't mean I'm any more excited about it than I was before. I've seen these teams play already. Way too many times for my liking given how bad this conference is. Subjecting myself to more of it is something I'll do, but not without complaint.
4. Who will be UCLA's point guard next season if Chianti is too cowardly to fire Howland even after failing to win banner number 12?
Bellerophon: Some combination of Kyle Anderson/Zach LaVine/JUCO Transfer.
AHMB: Likely a JUCO transfer.
freesia39: I want to say Kyle, but in reality it'll be the JuCo transfer.
Achilles: Zach Levine and Kyle Anderson. I'm not sure it matters if Howland gets fired, would a new coach have the chance to bring a point guard with him?
bruinclassof10: I agree with freesia above. I would like to see SloMo start at PG but I know we'll get a JUCO guy or maybe we have a UNC transfer on our roster that we don't know about!
gbruin: I hope it's Kyle, but given his dad's recent comments, I wouldn't be surprised if it's the JuCo transfer. I'll root for the kid, and with all respect to Lazeric, we should never be relying on a JuCo transfer to run the team.
Nestor: Let's go with two scenarios here. In Scenario A if we are stuck with Ben next season, we will most likely have some JUCO dude running the point with some help from Zach Lavine. Will we have Anderson back next season? I have no idea. My gut tells me that if we get to Sweet-16 based on his stellar play, he is not going to come back unless we have a new coach next season. In Scenario B, if we get a new coach with a track record of building amazing programs, I bet he'd be able to re-recruit Anderson and have a good chance to bring him back to Westwood. In that case we'd have the opportunity to enjoy what could be a very riveting year with Anderson running the point.
Tydides: Transfer guy. Don't even know his name. So sad.
5. How will UCLA's front court look next season if Chianti is too cowardly to fire Howland even after failing to win banner number 12?
Bellerophon: If Ben returns, I'd expect Tony Parker to bail. Since we aren't in the running for any 2013 recruits who play center, our only two true centers on the roster will be walk-ons. It looks like another season of the Wear twins as our only front-court players. In other words, we're screwed.
AHMB: Kyle Anderson will probably be back in his point power forward role, and we'll have another season of the Wear twins. Whether or not Tony Parker sticks around is yet to be seen, but I don't think it's very likely. There's nobody else behind those four.
freesia39: Thin. Sad. Depressed. Oh you mean physically? More Wear action.
Achilles: Not sure. It all depends on what Parker does. Who knows what he'll do?
bruinclassof10: Sad. Another year of the Wear-Howlands getting all the minutes.
gbruin: D Wear, T Wear, and Kyle. Opposing centers and PF's will be pleased. Even if Tony Parker stays, what makes anyone think he'll get significant playing time over either Wear?
Nestor: If Ben returns the answer will is basically just the Wear twins and that's about it. Perhaps Ben can bring in some JUCO leftover but I doubt it. It's doubtful whether Parker will stick around given what the Mike Moser treatment he has gotten this season. If we get a new coach, we could actually see a very interesting lineup of Anderson at 4 and Parker at the 5, and I am guessing Parker is going to be slotted to get major minutes next season. Either way due to total ineptitude in recruiting the dept up front is beyond a disaster. It's sad and ugly situation. Heckuva job Ben.
6. Those "fruit-stripe" unis - UCLA still set to roll them about for the first conference tourney game? Have you gotten a pair of your zubaz shorts?
Bellerophon: I'm trying not to throw up.
AHMB: I'm generally pretty liberal when it comes to alternate unis. I mean, what the hell, it's only for one game, right? But those things are atrocious. Who looks at those unis and thinks they're a good idea?
freesia39: Were zubaz even made for women? NO. BWAHAHAHAHA. By the way, the Chicago Cubs are doing a giveaway of zubaz this year. Thank adidas for giving them a few more minutes in the sun after fading quietly away. Although with how loud those pants are, I doubt they will ever fade.
Achilles: I don't like the uniforms. But then again, I don't like today's Top 40 with Ryan Seacrest. So, if the kids like them, I'm fine with it, I guess. I think they are ugly, but it might be generational.
bruinclassof10: Disgusting, repulsive, stupid and ignorant. They remind me of Dan Guerrero. He should be forced to wear these (and tarred and feathered) on March 31st.
gbruin: No. If they weren't alternate unis, perhaps I could see them being acceptable as a kind of crazy beachwear. But otherwise, just, no. Sigh.
Nestor: I think I will just let this gif describe the quality of collaboration among the geniuses at Adidas and Morgan Center:
Tydides: Thanks for reminding me. Earlier I said I would reluctantly watch the games. Now I might not.