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Coach Howland Sitting Pretty ...

Frank Burlison has some interesting notes on why Coach Howland is breathing a sigh of relief:

The UCLA Bruins moved a couple of solid steps toward being a probable consensus preseason No. 1 with the as-expected confirmation Wednesday that sophomores Darren Collison and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute will indeed play as juniors for Coach Ben Howland instead of taking pops at being NBA rookies next season.

With the April 29 (Sunday, midnight) deadline for early-entry candidates for the NBA Draft to send their paperwork into the league office in New York rapidly approaching, the "short list" of the teams with the best opportunities is just as rapidly taking shape.

And, unless Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert - near-locks to be lottery (top 14) selections - yank their names off the draft-eligible list before the June 18 deadline and return to Georgetown, the Bruins should head an upper tier of national championship contenders that will also include North Carolina, Memphis, Tennessee, Louisville and, possibly (but only if 6-5 ½ Brandon Rush returns for his junior season), Kansas.

Assuming Josh Shipp, who underwent surgery on his left hip recently, is healthy and pain free next season, the Bruins - with the addition of freshmen-to-be Kevin Love (easily the best all-around post player in the class of 2007) and 6-7 forward Chace Stanback - will be in much better position to win a national title than they were the past two years while losing in the 2006 final and the Final Four semifinals on March 31.
Those are some gaudy expectations.

I can't fault anyone for having high hopes for our Ben Ball warriors next season. However, there are lot of x factors. Let's hope Shipp goes through a complete recovery. It is going to be interesting to see what kind of improvement Luc can make during this off-season. Will Dragovic be able to contribute by learning how to play Ben Ball defense? Who is going to replace AA as our go to defensive stopper?

I know I know. I may be worrying too much. But still the team next season will have to go through the same growth process, the last two squads have gone through under Howland's coaching in Westwood. With Howland in charge we have no doubt we are going to be in for yet another treat. It is going to be a lot of fun to see him mesh in a new core of Ben Ball warriors (with addition of Love and Stanback) and turn them into a championship contending team. Quiet a contrast from the football program where we are dreading the arrival of Dorrell's fifth season, while in hoops we cannot wait to read about practices in October. It all comes down to coaching. Howland is sitting pretty as the head caoch of UCLA hoops, while Dorrell is still out there making excuses for yet another stumbling, bumbling spring scrimmage.