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Ben Ball News & Notes

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Reggie Miller was in the House on Saturday. He left Pauley impressed with our defense:

Miller left pleased. Sunday he gave a mini-scouting report and offered some suggestions to a couple of the Bruins who clearly have sooner-rather-than-later NBA aspirations.

"I think UCLA is right there with North Carolina and Kansas," Miller said, dismissing Memphis because of its forced march through the relatively weak Conference USA schedule for the next six weeks. Miller said he found UCLA's defensive effort in its 81-74 win over Washington State "exciting."

He said he didn't have a true appreciation of the Bruins' exceptional ability to pressure the ball all over the court or of Love's outside shooting ability or passing ability until he watched the game.

Of the defense, he said, "What I saw was a team that moves as one. One through eight, they were all on the same page. They all have such clarity about how defense works."
Miller also had the following observations on a few Ben Ball warriors who have aspirations to play ball at the next level:
Of Love, he said, "I knew Love was a good passer and maybe I wouldn't put him at the Bill Walton level yet," Miller said. "But that outlet he threw to Josh Shipp in the second half [a pass that resulted in a Shipp tomahawk dunk], wow. You don't know how good that is until you see it up close."

Miller said Love collected rebounds "efficiently" and was smart about how he went after the ball. "I know they list him at 6-10," Miller said. "He's not 6-10, maybe he's 6-8, but when he rebounds you think he's 7 feet tall." Miller also praised Love's hands.

He also marveled at Darren Collison's ability to apply on-ball defensive pressure and at the overall athleticism of Russell Westbrook.

"I haven't seen him up close," Miller said. "He's got the size and athletic ability to be a very good NBA player."
That was from Pucin's article, which also speculates about how Shipp and Luc may be testing the proverbial NBA waters following the end of this season. I am not going to worry about those scenarios just yet. I feel those situations have a way of working themselves out. With Howland in charge, I feel confident that one way or another our program will be in good shape. For now, though, we should all soak in what is turning out to be another enjoyable Ben Ball season.

Also, some loose ends from the weekend. Love's 27 points was 3rd highest total for a Bruin freshman. OC Register has the number on top-5 performances of Bruin freshmen.

Among the folks who were impressed with Bruin's performance, Gary Parrish from Sportsline.com:
[I]s there a safer pick to make the Final Four than UCLA?

I've been suggesting for weeks that there is not, and nothing I saw in Saturday's 81-74 victory over Washington State made me think otherwise. Honestly, I'm still not sure how Texas went into Pauley Pavilion last month and beat the Bruins. But just trust me when I tell you there won't be another team this season that manages to do the same -- not as long as Darren Collison (the great point guard) is running the break, Kevin Love (the great center) is grabbing the misses and Ben Howland (the great coach) is putting them in a position to do all that and more.

UCLA is now 16-1 and completely dominant.

The Bruins handled a consensus top five team in WSU with little problems, and the final margin was only close because the Cougars sank nine 3-pointers in the final six minutes. Without that barrage, this game was a blowout. And don't take that as a shot at Washington State. It's not. That's a great team Tony Bennett has assembled. It's just that UCLA seems to be operating at a level above, and when you get your bracket on Selection Sunday don't forget to place the Bruins in San Antonio, at least.
Again, folks need to calm down. We have a long way to go with difficult road trips looming to the Washington, Oregon and Arizona schools. And we all know what can happen in the Pac-10 tourney (remember the Cal debacle last year).

Still a long way to go.

GO BRUINS.