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Notes on Number 1

A little hoops detour (we have a team that is, after all, ranked number 1 in the nation) before the Emerald Bowl tonight. Diane Pucin of LA Times is back at work after being out for a while because she was under the weather. Hope she is feeling better. She does her usual nit picking, but this time she also writes about all the little things Howland's players are doing so well. Here are her notes on Coach Howland raving about Luc:

"Luc is improving his shooting," Howland said. "The most important thing about shooting is shot selection, and he's shooting 59% from the field and he's four of seven from three[-point range]."

Well, it's 58.2% and three of seven, but a coach can be forgiven for rounding up instead of down when the player is so conscientious about performing all the basketball skills.

In UCLA's 92-55 obliteration of Michigan on Saturday, Howland said Mbah a Moute was "absolutely dominant. He does the things that no one talks about.

"On Arron Afflalo's first three of the game, he knocks it down, it's because Luc set a great screen. Luc got him wide open because he nailed a guy on a screen. He had seven steals, he was everywhere."
Luc is, of course, not the only one doing all the little things in Coach Howland's big time number 1 program. BBR has a progress report on the number 1 team in America heading into conference season. BBR doesn't hide it's enthusiasm when grading the best basketball coach in America:
Coaching: A+

What happens when a team losses three starters to the NBA in a year?  The team goes undefeated through eleven games if you're coached by Ben Howland.

In his fourth year at the helm, Coach Howland has his own recruits playing in his system.

He not only recruits highly-skilled ball players but also recruits Ben Howland-type  players: high character, team-oriented, and highly-competitive winners.

He has developed a foundation at UCLA which will make 25-plus victory seasons and a high NCAA tournament seeding an annual event in Westwood.

Howland's fundamental system of hard-nosed solid team defense and high-percentage offense, matching the talent of his team, is a winning combination.  Last season with Jordan Farmar at the helm and a less offensive-potent line-up, the Bruins played a highly-structured offense. This season, with high-scoring wings and a speedster at point, the Bruins have become more of a running team -- yet, the common denominator for both teams is solid defense.

Last season, a stingy UCLA defense allowed just 58.7 points a game on 41.5 shooting.  This season, despite running more often and allowing opponents more possessions per game, the defense is still allowing just 59.8 points a game on 41.1% field goal shooting.

As UCLA Coach Ben Howland has shown: Defense wins championships.
Amen to that.

The Bruins will begin defending their Pac-10 regular season championship when they take on Washington State tomorrow night. We will focus on that game tomorrow after the Emerald Bowl.

Washington State is not going to be a pushover, as they are being led by a solid coach who brings in a team with a nice 11-1 record (with an impressive win over Gonzaga). Yes, the Bruins have lot of little things they still need to work on as referenced in Pucin's article today, which has Coach Howland talking about how the team needs to work on improving it's rebounding margin.

But, again folks, we need to keep it all in perspective. We should be afraid if noone. A statistic not a lot of folks are writing about except for the most diehards on various Bruin boards: UCLA under Coach Howland is an astonishing 23-1 in its last 24 games. And those 23 wins include wins over programs like Cal, Arizona, Alabama, Gonzaga, Memphis, LSU, Kentucky, Georgia Tech, Texas A & M, and a total obliteration of Michigan.

And, still, we have room for improvement. That should be scary - not to us, but to rest of the college hoops crazy nation.

So, do we need to mention again how much we love our Ben Ball warriors and our basketball coach?