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Ready to Run: Ben Ball Madness Roundup

Game day is here. We still have about 12 long hours to go through till we finally get to the tip-off. As expected lot of good reads today about our Ben Ball warriors in the local papers. Let’s get to them.

Dohn has the story on how our Bruins are ready to run:

The second-seeded Bruins (26-5) are projecting confidence entering their NCAA Tournament first round West regional meeting with No. 15 seed Weber State at Arco Arena, but it remains unsettled as to whether the Bruins late-season slip-ups were do to already peaking, or peeking ahead.

All-American guard Arron Afflalo said UCLA's confidence remains intact for a simple reason.

"Because we had 26 wins," Afflalo said. "We know what it takes to win. It's not like we're a .500 team, a mediocre team. We've been an elite team all year long. We just had some minor struggles. We know what it takes to win."

Said Bruins wing Josh Shipp: "I don't think those two losses are indicative of our season. I think we just had a couple of mental lapses where we kind of beat ourselves."
Dohn goes on to allude to the some of the uncertain feelings around the team coming from last two games. However, it sounds like our coaches and players are ready, and are just anxious to play so they can regain the momentum lost in last two weeks of the season.

As for being ready physically sounds like DC is doing fine and ready to go. Dohn again has the details on DC:
"I expect him (Collison) to play," Howland said. "It would be better if it didn't happen at all, but it is what it is. It isn't like West Virginia where it's a nonconference game and we have a choice here. I expect him to play a normal game."

X-rays on Collison's ankle were negative. He was held out of several drills during the public practice session Wednesday night at Arco Arena, and did very little running.

"I did some cutting, some shooting (in practice) and it felt fine," Collison said. "It's not that big of a deal."
OC Register’s Kuwada has more on DC. Honestly, I am not really all that worried about this. DC is going to be fine. If Westbrook gets heavy minutes, I think that will be a good thing. And I don’t think what happened in West Virginia (when RW struggled) is indicative of what is going to happen in the tourney, given the fact Sacramento is not going to the present the same hostile and unfavorable cicumstances at Morgantown. We are going to be all right. I expect DC and his team-mates to put all this hyper worrying about their bumps and bruises aside and just play.

Daily News has more coverage on our Bruins, which includes kind of fluff piece from Steve Dilbeck. Dilbeck writes about how expectations for championships are back in Westwood and under Coach Howland UCLA has been restored to "the absolute upper-echelon of college basketball programs." Would have been nice to see those articles during the season when Bruins were storming through the Pac-10. But hey I will take it.

Meanwhile over at the LA Times Pucin still hasn’t owned up to her sloppy, blatant mistake from yesterday’s report. She does however has another human interest profile story on Coach Howland and his former team-mates from Weber State. Howland’s team-mates are rooting for the Bruins (not Weber State) and have some interesting stories to share about our workaholic Coach :
Ever since Howland became an assistant at UC Santa Barbara then coach at Northern Arizona, Pittsburgh and UCLA, Howland has had the support of his Weber State teammates. They gather in the summer for fly-fishing trips in Wyoming and Montana. And they go to the NCAA tournament — they will be behind UCLA's bench today.

They also still occasionally get phone calls at two in the morning, when Howland is watching game tape.

"The phone will ring and he'll say, 'Condie, what are you doing?' I'll say, 'What every other normal person does. I'm sleeping.' And he'll just start talking," Condie said.

Johnson once owned a printing business near Weber State that did business with the school. But when he went to a Northern Arizona-Weber State game and was spotted rooting for Howland and against Weber State, a Weber State coach threatened to never again give Johnson's company work. (No loss, Johnson said, since he was doing the work for free.)

"He works so hard I get concerned about his health," Johnson said of Howland.
Lot of us here had a good idea about Coach Howland’s work ethic. Still it is fun to hear the stories from his friends.

Also at the Times Pucin has a story on how the perception that Luc has regressed this season is over-blown. I have no idea why she waited till the end of the regular season to write this up. But hey better late than never I guess. Pucin notes that the drop in Luc’s scoring and rebounding numbers this season from his freshman season has been minimal, and she includes observations from former coaches and players (including Cameron Dollar) according to whom while Luc’s point/rebounding production may be down this year, his over all game has improved a lot. Here is Cameron on Luc:
Cameron Dollar, a former UCLA player and an assistant coach at Washington, said there was no reason to criticize Mbah a Moute's play, defensively or offensively.

"I've heard people say Luc hasn't improved," Dollar said. "That's crazy. When you watch film of UCLA you see his impact on the game in so many different ways. You have to watch how the team played against him. Teams had to make different adjustments for Luc this year. The adjustments made to contain Luc better left other players with different freedoms.

"Basketball progress isn't always a straight line. You want progress? His team just defended a league title. If Luc hadn't made progress that wouldn't have happened."
I agree with most of these points. However, I do want to see Luc finishing strong starting to night. Against Cal and Washington, I think Luc missed a number of shots from close range he was finishing during the tourney run this season. He just needs to go to the rim with little more authority and confidence. He has the ability to do it and he has shown that during his last two years. It’s a matter of him refocusing and getting back his confidence, which I think he will regain if he comes out focused on the defensive side of the ball.

And that goes for the whole team. I am anxious to see how our team comes out tonight and specially on defense. Weber State as we have pointed out before is a team that likes to slow it down and play half court set offense. It will be interesting to see if they are getting good looks and open shots, like some of our opponents have in recent weeks when the Bruins came out a little flat in the first halves. They can’t afford to have those letdowns tonight.

Anyways … I will put up a tourney open thread up in a bit. I believe A is going to run the game thread tonight. Let’s hope our Bruins are ready to run.