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Ben Ball 07-08: Howland's Most Fun Team To Date?

Since some of you are aching for a diversion from discussions on Bruin football (which is not going to be pleasant unless KD delivers a Pac-10 championship this coming season), let's dedicate today's roundup to Ben Ball. Now that NBA draft picture - in terms of who is staying in/out of it - a new batch of rankings have been popping up around the internets. If you haven't done it read Rye's prediction of Pac-10 standings. IMHO Stanford may be ranked a little low. I think Stanford could emerge as the second best program in the conference next season if Johnson figures out how to run his offense consistently through the Lopez brothers. If they develop right, they are going to turn to be absolute animals. Anyways ... let's focus back on our Ben Ball Warriors.

Moving on to the traditional media Jon Wiliner has this take on an early look at next Pac-10 season. Bruins of course are slotted at the top spot in the PAC:

1. UCLA: This just might be the biggest, strongest, toughest, burliest, most physical team in Pac-10 history.

Watch for Shipp to take over at the off-guard spot, with Mbah a Moute and Lorenzo Mata at the forwards alongside Love, the top prep big man in the country. Oh, and the Bruins also have the league’s best point guard in Collison.

Even in a loaded league, the Bruins are heavy favorites.
Meanwhile, Jeff Goodman at FSN has Bruins penciled in as pre-season number 1:
UCLA has gone to the Final Four two straight seasons and now Ben Howland finally has a low-post presence with freshman Kevin Love. He also has one of the nation's top point guards, Darren Collison, and we know that it's point guards, big men and coaching that wins championships.

"It's flattering to be picked No. 1 and to be thought of so highly with so many other great programs," Howland said. "But at the end of the day, it's all about how you finish."

Well, we're going with the Bruins to finish strong. They'll be the ones cutting down the nets in San Antonio and raising banner No. 12 next season.

1. UCLA (30-6)

Arron Afflalo may have left, but Ben Howland still has plenty of experience that returns with a pair of Final Fours to its credit. Moreover, the Bruins will bring in the one ingredient that was lacking a year ago: a true low-post scorer. Incoming freshman Kevin Love will give Howland a legitimate threat down low and will also immediately become the best passing big man in college basketball. UCLA will also have point guard Darren Collison, wing Josh Shipp and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Lorenzo Mata on the frontline. Oh yeah, the Bruins also have one of the nation's elite coaches in Howland.
Also at CBS Sportsline, Garry Parrish (who has been bullish on our Ben Ball warriors) has the Bruins at number 2.

Obviously we are going to have heavy expectations wrt our program heading into next season. I am not sure if we will end up winning banner number 12 or even end up in the Final-4 (the tournament is so crazy that it often takes luck (along with great coaching and player) to end up in the Final-4 in back to back to back seasons). But I already have this feeling that next year is going to be fun.

I think we may be looking at the most fun team of Howland era to date. Given what we have seen, heard, and read I think Love will become an impact player who will mesh well into Howland’s team game. Given the track record of player development under Howland, I am hopeful that other Bruins will improve their games during next few months leading into fall practices.

An improved DC could be scary. If Shipp is back in full health and gets back to the form in which he finished the season, he can take his game to another level. And there is a matter of freeing Russell Westbrook. Plus if Luc, AA2, Roll, Keefe, Dragovic et al. work their rear ends of during this off-season, they can come back improved, ready, and eager to make lot more impact next season.

And while considering all these factors I think we can count on the foundation of Ben Ball: defense and rebounding. I am already picturing Love cleaning up the boards, launching rockets to DC and Shipp, rim rattling thunder drunks from Luc and AA2, and outside bombs from Roll, Dragovic, DC.

You get the picture … I think this may just be the most fun we get to have Howland era to date.

And people wonder why the mood improves spontaneously around BN when we bring up UCLA hoops.