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Getting Ready

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Just one more day till the Bruins get going in the Pac-10 tournament. Yesterday we heard how AA was concerned about the state of team’s mind following the Washington loss. Today from Dohn’s report it sounds like Bruins are working very hard to put that meaningless loss behind him, but learn from it and get ready for the tournament. Bruins led by AA sound excited and yet at the same time are realistic about what can happen over next few days:

"You gotta love it because that's the best position for you," UCLA junior guard and Pac-10 Player of the Year Arron Afflalo said. "In my eyes, it gives us the inner confidence that we are the best. We did win this conference outright, well- deservingly, and not to be cocky, but to be confident, and how to straddle that line, and understand that if we don't come to play, with that type of bull's-eye, we'll be beat.

"There's three teams in this conference that beat us this year, so we're beatable."

Of those three teams - Oregon, Stanford and Washington - the Bruins could face two of them en route to a possible championship repeat. Fourth-seed Oregon plays fifth-seeded Arizona in Thursday's first game, with the winner meeting the winner of the UCLA-Cal/Oregon State game.

Stanford and Washington are on the other side of the bracket, meaning UCLA could only face those schools in the title game.

The Huskies provide UCLA's most recent motivation. The Bruins dropped a 61-51, uninspiring decision at Washington on Saturday in what was UCLA's worst effort of the season.

"I think it was an eye-opener," UCLA wing Josh Shipp said. "We had a team meeting. I think we regrouped and we'll be ready. We watched the film and we talked. The film was great. It was rough."
As we have discussed over last few days, the Washington game was especially "rough" for DC. OCR’s Kuwada has more on the sophomore pg’s recent slump:
Point guard Darren Collison was in early, working on his shooting. The sophomore has hit only 11 of 40 shots (27.5 percent) including 1 of 9 from behind the three-point line (11.1 percent) since he had 17 points, 15 assists and only two turnovers in a Feb.17 victory at Arizona.

Coach Ben Howland said he thought the slump had little to do with shot selection or fatigue.

"I think he's been taking pretty good shots," Howland said. "I think a lot of it was, coming back from Arizona and having a lot of attention, and maybe getting a little bit caught up in that."
I think lot of times we forget these kids are 18-19 year old sophomore college kids. I think it is entirely natural for a kid like to DC to get caught up on the attention after the kind of season he was having up to the Arizona game. He lives in the second biggest media market in the country and I am sure he is not insulated from the information coming out via the traditional and new media. But luckily for him (and us) he has a coach like Howland and a team leader like AA around. I am more than confident DC will learn from the lessons he received following the Washington game, and become an even better player out of it. It may not translate into better shooting percentages over night, but I do think (and hope) it will translate into better decision making on the floor from here on out, which will enable him to eventually revert back to the form that made him unstoppable through the Arizona road trip.

Besides DC another concern for our team is AA2’s health. More on his situation from Kuwada:
Alfred Aboya practiced without incident Tuesday and will be available to play when UCLA opens defense of its Pac-10 Tournament title on Thursday, a boon to the Bruins.

The 6-foot-8 forward/center had a left knee contusion and did not play in the regular-season-ending loss at Washington, a game in which the UCLA post players were pushed around by the Huskies' 7-foot center Spencer Hawes and forward Jon Brockman. […]

Aboya went through 90percent of the practice, held out only during a conversion defense drill, and said that he was not worried about the prospect of playing three consecutive days on the knee. He already has had surgery twice on his left knee.

"I don't want that to get in my head. I just want to go and play and forget about that,"he said. "The way I practiced today, I didn't think about it and I don't know why I would think about it when I play on Thursday or Friday or Saturday. I'll just play hard as I usually do and if it hurts, I will just have to sit down again and if it doesn't great.''
We will have to keep a close eye on AA2 tomorrow night. Here is to AA2 having a healthy and productive stretch run to close out this season. He will get plenty of time to rest up after the Bruins have accomplished their goals for rest of this season.

Elsewhere, as some of you pointed out already AA was chosen as one of ESPN’s five All Americans. Make sure to check out this link to great photos of those All Americans. The link includes a picture AA, which IMHO clearly portrays what kind of player he is and what he means to our basketball program. I will end today’s round up another comment from AA concerning the expectations surrounding the Bruin hoops team heading into the Pac-10 tourney (via Dohn):
"The expectation of winning is far and beyond what it was two years ago as an incoming freshman, and that's a good thing," Afflalo said. "That's the way it should be. John Wooden created something spectacular around here, and it's good that it's starting to live on once again."
I think he sounds ready for the tourney. Doesn’t he?

GO BRUINS.