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From Oakland with LOVE: Beautiful UCLA Basketball

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Obviously we are going to have a barrage of articles, reports, and columns on the greatest college basketball program of all time for next 6 days. Lot of clueless national scribes are going to want a piece of us - befuddled, confused - figuring out how Coach Howland got us to the Final-4 despite the lofty, unreasonable expectations from this evil, demanding UCLA alumni, students, and season ticket holder. Here are just some thoughts going through my head this morning - I will do my best to see if I can tie them in a narrative that is right for the nation.

First of all - Coach Howland. Now you know why we have been in love with this guy out of the gate. We have taken some heat on this blog at times for our unflinching and unconditional support for our basketball coach after some of our losses this year. We have gotten hate mails for our so-called "blind support" for Coach Howland and constant criticisms of a football head coach (who has clearly underachieved and has accomplished absolutely nothing in the magnitude of Coach Howland). Yet - we chose to stick firm behind in a guy we had no doubt was going to bring back glory in Westwood. As Jordan Farmar said yesterday, "At UCLA, no other banners but national championships go up.' Yes we are not quiet there yet, but we have always known the gems we have in Coach Howland and the players he have molded from those Lavin players, and the players he has brought in during last two years. This is more than special for us to see this image - something I will be honest I did not visualize not in my most optimistic of pre-season expectations:

Photo: Alexander Gallardo/LA Times

Yes, that guy is the unquestioned NCOY in the eyes of the BruinsNation. We don't have to rehash what he has done through the whole season. Those who are not jumping on the bandwagon now - know the story. And here is another reason we have been in love with this guy from Day 1. He gets it. He gets UCLA is all about. And, instead of whining about the so called pressure, whining about the demanding Bruin Nation, he embraces us and embraces the spirit of blue and gold:

"This program is where it is right now, as the greatest tradition in all of college basketball, the greatest history in all of college basketball," Howland said. "Eleven national championships. It all starts with Coach Wooden."
Yes, we LOVE this guy.

Here are links to CBS Videos with interviews of Coach Howland and highlights of UCLA basketball.

Second, "beautiful basketball." Yeah the national media (ESPN and CBS) and some morons in the local media are going to be howling next few days chortling and sneering derisively about UCLA's `ugly basketball.' That's fine. Let them sound like douchebags like they have the whole year (LMFAO at CBS "basketball analyst" Seth Davis's ESPN radio interview from Friday who insisted UCLA would have to run to hang in there with Memphis!). Let them laugh and sneer at Howland's brand of basketball. It is beautiful to us. Here is Brian Dohn
The flying dunks are replaced by rigid elbows. The grace of a jump shot supplanted by the horizontal sliding of lightning-quick feet and bumping of torsos. The feared shooter is gone, given way to a ferocious defender.

UCLA basketball is different these days, but there is one connection to the long-lost glory days of the storied Bruins program, and that is a berth in the Final Four.
Here is more from the Coach on our "ugly basketball":
"I think our team embodies the spirit of what Coach is all about, which is teamwork, which is unselfish play, which is a commitment at both ends of the floor to play together."
As far as I am concerned they can win next-weekend's game 34-27 and I will gladly take it. We don't have to worry about what the assclowns in DSPN and everywhere else are whining about.

Third, let's talk about last night. Of course Hollins is the story. I want to echo lot of the comments from last night thread and issue my own personal apology to Hollins for being so hard on him earlier in the year. This is a different kid. He is not a "Lavin recruit," any more. He (and Ced) are "Howland players." And it is a tribute to these two for working so hard to get to where they are today. We have written about Ced this year a lot on how much we love this kid. It is time to put Hollins next to Ced. This is now my the favorite senior kids since Ed/Tyus/George left in 1995:

AP Photo

We will remember them through this image for rest of our lives. Unbelievable.

Fourth, speaking of "ugly basketball" how about that Bruin Defense? And guess who were two keys in shutting down on of the best offense in the country? From Dohn:
UCLA also answered questions of whether it can venture deep into the NCAAs with a suspect offense by playing stifling defense, led by guard Arron Afflalo and power forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.

Afflalo frustrated Memphis' leading scorer Rodney Carney into 2-of-12 shooting as Memphis shot 31.5 percent from the floor. Carney finished with five points and was limited to 26 minutes because of foul trouble.

Mbah a Moute, who was torched for 26 points by Shawne Williams in Memphis' No. 23 win at Madison Square Garden, held Williams to 2-of-9 shooting and eight points. Williams' lone 3-pointer came with 13.8 seconds to play, and was the Tigers' first from beyond the arc after they misfired on their first 15.

Memphis (33-4) was shooting 45.5 percent from the field, and averaging 81 points.

"For us to come in here and hold them to 45 points is pretty phenomenal," Afflalo said. "For a team that's averaging 80, it's very good, but we somewhat expected it."

Mbah a Moute believed Memphis didn't expect to see a different Bruins team from the one it played during an 88-80 Tigers win Nov. 23 in the NIT Season tipoff.

"I don't know what they thought about us, but they didn't think we were going to come out this hard," Mbah a Moute said. "They didn't know how much we've grown, how much better we got."
Yeap, bring on the Big Baby! BTW what about the irony about this UCLA-LSU match especially considering all the fun we have had with this. And Phil Taylor of CNNSI has this quick preview on what may see next Saturday:
This much we know: The Bruins won't be blown out by LSU in the national semifinals. UCLA's defense and their ability to slow the pace of the game is so effective that they are always in the game, no matter whom they play. LSU is similar to Memphis in that they are athletic and like to run, so Howland will be able to transfer much of Saturday's game plan to next weekend. The difference is that LSU can go to Glen "Big Baby" Davis in the halfcourt, and Memphis had no such low-post option. Look for Hollins, the Bruins' center, to play a huge role again. If he can neutralize Davis without getting in foul trouble, UCLA will be in excellent shape. The Bruins, however, have to be more productive on offense than they were against Memphis. The guess here is that they will be, and UCLA will get to the title game.
These kids are not going to be intimidated by any one on a basketball court. I am looking forward to more beautiful basketball from our boys in blue and gold.

Lastly, we should also send a huge shout out to the incredible crowd in Oakland. They looked and sounded amazing. They brought the house down. They were ON FIRE. And no doubt our coaches and players were feeding off the raw energy, emotion, and love pouring out from that crowd. Wow. I just hope Pauley can have that same magic almost every game next season. That was something. That was the Bruin Nation at its finest. Finally getting to show its love for the greatest basketball program of all time after being bottled up for more than 10 years.

I gotta run this Sunday morning. Again obviously we are not going to flag every article, reports these coming days. It is going to be crazy. So I will leave it up to you to keep the Nation hopping. Sorry again for the scattered thoughts. So much to write about. We are just getting started with our brand of beautiful basketball. Beautiful UCLA basketball.