Of course we are not quiet there yet. We are not close. But as we have been saying during last few months - we believe in Howland. And, we are more than confident he is going to take us back to where we belong - top of college basketball. Here is a writer besides Brian Dohn who is recognizing what is unfolding in Westwood:
A basketball program that even 12 months ago embodied the concept of "once-great" is regaining its swagger. After putting former tormentor Arizona in its place, the Bruins hold first place in the Pacific-10.
UCLA pounced on the Wildcats on Saturday, running up a 24-point lead and coasting to an 84-73 victory at Pauley Pavilion, giving UCLA a sweep of Lute Olson's class-of-the-conference team for the first time since 1997. Which also was the last time UCLA won a conference title.
And with seven games left on the Pac-10 schedule, UCLA is alone atop the standings at 9-2, is 19-4 overall, ranked 14th nationally, and probably headed north.
Old-timers who recall UCLA's 11 national championships will say this is as it should be.
But for those whose memories extend back only as far as Steve Lavin's Reign of Error, consecutive Pac-10 finishes of third, third, fourth, third, sixth, sixth, seventh and third have conditioned the kids to consider UCLA a middle-of-the-Pac school.
"I'm excited about where our program is," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "It's about good players. No, great players."
For the first time since the regime of ethics-challenged Jim Harrick, UCLA has talent as well as effective coaching. It's a powerful combination that has UCLA back on the national radar despite its players' tender years.
Five of the Bruins' top six scorers are freshmen or sophomores. Including Arron Afflalo, Jordan Farmar, Luc Mbah a Moute and Darren Collison, the freshman from Etiwanda High School.
These guys are athletic, organized and increasingly confident. They run, jump and expect to win. Just like Old Times.