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Tip Off Tonight ...

So the basketball season officially tips off today.  Dohn has a nifty tip-off piece, which has this bottom line on expectations:

The season's a flop if...UCLA doesn't make the NCAAs and advance past the first round. Yes, the Bruins are young, but missing the NCAA isn't an option. ... Center Michael Fey doesn't score and rebound more. He needs to average at least 11 ppg, and 7 rpg. ... Freshman Darren Collison doesn't develop into a strong backup point guard for Jordan Farmar, whose minutes must be cut from the 34.4 he averaged last season.
And it sounds like the players understand.  From the same piece here is AA:
UCLA, which is searching for its first 20-win season since 2001-02, opens play tonight by hosting New Mexico State in the preseason NIT Tip-off at 7.

"Our first little team meeting (Howland) pretty much said that we're settling for nothing less than, of course, making the tournament, and at least the Sweet 16," UCLA guard Arron Afflalo said. "With a little luck, getting further. It just seems like it's about time."
Sounds like those goals are on par with everyone else's expectations here, although I still think getting to Steve-16 can sometimes be hit and miss. Also, there is a hilarious Q&A in that Dohn with our Prince from Cameroon, freshman forward Luc Richard Mbah A Moute.  The dude loves eating vipers!
What can you tell everyone about Viper?

Oh, that's the best meat in the world. Viper and Boa. You know, the snake. That's the best meat in the world. You cook it like you cook chicken. You cut it in little pieces and cook it like normal food.

Where do you buy Viper or Boa?

It's kind of hard to find. You have to go to the market, and sometimes people have them and sometimes you have to go to the villages, where they have people that hunt for the vipers and they sell them.
Well that should serve as a notice for what Luc is gonna do to other Pac-10 forwards for next few years.  Elsewhere, here is the LA Times preview on the season and tonight's game. Here are the money grafs on our loaded backcourt:
UCLA seems loaded at the guard positions. The 6-2 Farmar has added 15 pounds of muscle to weigh in at 185, and his court awareness and leadership qualities seem to have also grown.

There is no question who runs the show on the floor.

"I'm the leader," Farmar says flatly. "Everybody embraces that. I think I've earned it."

Nicely complementing Farmar is the 6-5 Afflalo, whose athletic ability and versatility were demonstrated in that he was UCLA's best defensive player and the team leader in three-point shooting (38.6%, 39 of 101.)

Nobody on the roster is going to unseat these two from the starting lineup, but freshman Darren Collison has already made a strong case for more playing time, beginning with the exhibition opener. Collison, from Etiwanda High, scored the first five points of that game, showing unusual poise and confidence for a freshman.

What caused even Howland's jaw to drop was a play in which the 6-foot Collison stole the ball and made it to the basket for a dunk on only two dribbles. Howland ran the game tape back, measured, and reported that Collison had started seven feet behind the midcourt line.

And then there is Cedric Bozeman. Remember him? All he did was start at the point for three seasons, lead the Pacific 10 Conference in assists in 2003-04 and use his 6-6 height and mobility to become a strong defensive force.
Well I have already written here before ... I am pulling for Ced. If Ced can play solid D, serve as a force on the boards, lock up opposing guards or versatile point-forwards, then we are going to be in business.  JD has more on Bruin Hoopscoop on tonight's game. Exciting stuff. Pauley seems to be coming alive all over again. GO BRUINS.