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Local Final Four (Fish)Wrap

By now we've all probably seen the irresponsible hit piece that Dennis Dodd has come out with, so I won't give that hack anymore of my time. Sadly, we can't count on our own local paper to set the record straight, as they have failed to accurately document the Bruins over the course of the past few seasons time and time again.

For what it's worth, TJ Simers downplays the incident in question, revealing Dodd as a whiny self-important butthurt douchebag over his embellishment of the situation. He also makes room to take shots at SUC for their Friday night choke job.

A day earlier here, Ben Howland irritated the media, nitpicking about this and griping about that, but explaining to everyone that it's all about his obsessive attention to detail, which is really the difference between winning and losing.

The way Howland controls things, the way he has UCLA winning basketball games and advancing to the Final Four every year, it's shocking to discover at this time of year that Howland isn't carrying a pair of scissors in his back pocket.

"I never want to count my chickens before they're hatched," Howland said, while obviously coming prepared with the cliches.

He has a point, though, UCLA doing nothing so far -- as I remind Howland after UCLA's 68-55 win over Kansas. The Bruins got this far a year ago, and from what I understand, the only thing folks at UCLA keep track of are national championships in this sport.

"I know, I know," Howland said, "we've still got more work to do."

The Bruins have proven only one thing so far -- they know how to close out another good team once they've run out to a huge lead in the second half in a significant game, and here's hoping USC gets a copy of the videotape.

I can get behind Simers' style of telling it like it is. If you'll recall, this is the guy who is the most adept at seeing through the Karl Dorrell cliche/loser-speak during football season

Not doing as well are Chris Dufresne and Diane Pucin, who are eating up Bill Self's excuses about "youth", while ignoring the fact that we are starting two juniors and three sophomores; not exactly a group of veterans, however experienced they may be. They at least salvaged the article by including this:

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was already planning the phone call. He hadn't spoken to his father, Camille Moute a Bidias, for over a week.

The talking is expensive back and forth between Westwood and Cameroon, his West African home.

And this call will be special. Mbah a Moute has said all season that if UCLA made it to the Final Four again, just as the Bruins did last year when he was a freshman, his father would come to the games.

Moute a Bidias has never seen his son play basketball in person. Not when Mbah a Moute was in high school in Florida and not in two years at UCLA. "He's going to come to Atlanta," Mbah a Moute said. "For sure."

Great for Luc and great for the Bruins. It wasn't ALL bad for Pucin however (rare as that may be), as she documents the effect the Bruin faithful had on the game in the critical moments:

UCLA had a 55-50 lead with 5:23 left and, again, the shot clock was dwindling. Collison, beyond the top of the key, heard Bruins fans counting, "Five, four, three," so he took a step back from his defender and heard "two, one."

"So I shot," Collison said. The ball was a rainbow and it hardly touched the net. So perfect, and the 58-50 lead was deflating to the Jayhawks.

"We had some momentum then," Self said, "and that basket kept us an arm's length away."

I think everyone in Bruins Nation can remember exactly which basket she was referring to. Of course that's something I could hear on TV as well, but let's hope Diane was able to finally attend one of our games in person (you know, since that's her job). Anyway, great job by those of you who showed up at HP Pavilion to paint the stands Bruin blue. The griping of a few sore Kansas losers over the location of the game is your doing.

Brian Dohn, who consistently does a better job than the Fishwrap, provides us with a little insight as to why this Final Four is special (as they all are in their own way).

It is UCLA's second straight trip to the Final Four and 17th overall. The school has a record 11 national titles.

"I think it was harder this year because everybody knew what we were about," UCLA point guard Darren Collison said. "Everybody knew our tendencies and our strengths and our weakness. Last year, I felt like we were that team that just slipped through the back door."

Afflalo was named the region's most outstanding player. He admitted this trip to the Final Four was more satisfying than a year ago.

"It's a little more joyful for me because I'm in my third year now, and you know this whole occurrence is so rare for you," Afflalo said. "I'm more of a leader. I've been more (a) part of the team each year I've been here, so you get a little more satisfaction out of it. Not to take anything out of last year, but again, I'm (looking) to do more on this team."

Don't sell yourself short Darren. You guys earned it last year, and you've earned it this year. If anyone is worried that this celebration will breed complacency, this column by Steve Dilbeck should put those worries to rest. Yes, Final Fours are an uncommon thing, which is why we should appreciate what we have now before turning our sights to the bigger prize. Then again, with players like Chace Stanback entering the fold having won a State Title with Fairfax after a defensive lockdown of their opponent last night, it would seem that we will continue to enjoy success with more Ben Ball Warriors on the way to don the Blue and Gold.