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The Best in the West

Steve Dibeck in the Daily News on how the Mighty Bruins may be poised to conquer all the rest:

There are no such polite restrictions here, so let's just put it out there: UCLA has re-established itself as the premier basketball team in the Pacific-10 Conference.

Not one of its best, not in its upper echelon, but the foremost power in what has become one of the top basketball conferences in the country. The team everyone else in the Pac-10 has to worry about. The program playing at the highest level. That every season will be an almost automatic conference title threat.

Saturday, the Bruins had their way with Stanford, 75-61, to complete an unbeaten home season and clinch at least at tie for the conference title. A victory next week at Washington State or Washington, and it's theirs outright.

That's two Pac-10 titles in consecutive years. In four quick seasons, Ben Howland has taken UCLA back to the pinnacle of the Pac-10. Better get used to it.

Last year's team heralded the return when it advanced to the NCAA title game. The Bruins lost three starters from that team, but they are now 25-3, ranked fourth in the country and may well climb to No.2 this week.

The Bruins are not at a John Wooden-esque level, not that any team ever will be, but they are back as the program to watch, to fear, to privately plot against.
HT to Martini Republic for spotting that great read which had this to add about the main reason for Bruin resurgence:
The sheen is back on the Bruin program. UCLA just completed its first season unbeaten at Pauley Pavilion since -- since I don't know when, but I suspect it was decades. This is no longer a program that will lose to a Northridge, and be pole-axed at home by other mid-majors.

With back-to-back conference titles and a Final Four appearance, UCLA is now clearly the best program in the conference; in fact, it is the best program west of the Mississippi, and is in the process of returning to elite status.

The reason: Ben Howland. Four years from hopeless to elite power, his most impressive reconstruction yet.
Yeap. And that's just one reason we believe Bruins are being led by the best college basketball coach in America.