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The Rare Sunday

I will admit it.

I am still having a hard getting over last night's game. Just when I think I have gotten over it visions of LRMAM's ill advised jumpers, AA2's mid range shot, JK's dropped defensive rebound, RW's careless turnovers and inability to finish (despite his great night), KL getting thumped on the floor (as Dorsey walked away taunting), and DC getting torched all night long every which way one can imagine, keep flashing in front of my eyes.

Right when I think - ok I am moving on now - I start thinking about KL's welled up eyes looking up at the roof of the Alama Dome thinking no one is going to catch him losing his composure.

This is not fun but it's part of following any great team.

It's one of those rare Sundays in the world of obsessing over Ben Ball, when I can't muster up an ounce of desire to go anywhere near the MSM websites and find out what's people are writing about our favorite basketball team.  This would be lot easier if it happened in the regular season or during the Pac-10 tournament.

But it is impossible to do when you start realizing we are not going to have another game to get all psyched up over this season.

So I took a peak. Predictably some characters are up to their predictable shtick. It took less than 24 hours for the village idiot of LA's sports world - aka Bill Plashcke - to jump of Howland's band wagon (again no need to link to this guys's drivel). Meanwhile, Art Spander who just earlier in the week wrote how Coach Howland was channeling Coach Wooden, didn't waste any time invoking Buffalo Bills (w/o bothering to mention how many times it took Coach Williams to win his first NC or Coach K to get it done at Duke).

The voice of sanity today actually comes from all places - TJ Simers - who I guess likes taking a contrarian view to his clueless colleagues in the MSM. Here is Simers defending Coach Howland:

I don't like the style of play and consider it boring, but I lose the argument with Howland when he starts talking about the joy he gets in winning. And the Bruins have done a whole bunch of that since he arrived with no indication it's about to stop any time soon.

"You know, as disappointing as this loss is, it's hard to be here three years in a row and not come away with a championship," Howland said. "But I'm still proud of this group of young men. I thought this was our best team, our best chance. Memphis State was better today, and you have to credit them."

And that should be that -- without taking away anything UCLA has accomplished this season, or the two before it.
What's that saying again? Even a broken clock can be right twice days. That's one for TJ.

Obviously it goes with out saying Coach Howland needs to change nothing wrt to his basic approach on how he has rebuilt UCLA. Sure we may have questions and concerns about yesterday's game strategy, but that doesn't mean that he somehow needs to change his philosophy on how to run our program. That is just absurd and beyond comical given his track record at UCLA and at other programs.

Going back to the game here are some of my thoughts on last night:
  • Shot Selection: Going into last night's game we talked how our players needed to be smart with their shot selection. Memphis is an incredibly talented team and to beat them we had to be patient and smart on our offense. I am not sure if we were patient or smart enough last night. If we were we wouldn't see those jumpers from LRMAM and AA2. We wouldn't see us setting for one jumpers after another, instead of running the offense through KL (more on that below)

  • [Mental] Mistakes: We were careless last night. On paper we turned the ball over 12 times. That's not so bad. But if we needed to give ourselves the best chance to beat a great team like the Tigers, we couldn't afford to turn the ball over like we did multiple times last night that cost us points. I already mentioned JK's dropped rebound and the ball going of RW's foot. Another deadly TO came right after DC stole the ball only to step out of bounce. Those kinds of mistakes killed us all night long in the way of Memphis points. Not to mention those jumpshots were also turning into Tiger breaks on the other end. This was tough to take given all the experience we had coming into this game. Oh well.

  • Match-up: Rye already alluded to this in his good post game post here:
    Looking at individual player matchups, I saw a lot of Memphis talent and athleticism, but on the bench I saw a clear advantage for ourselves. That didn't play out as planned though because Calipari put together a great gameplan, while Howland struggled to keep up. Howland's biggest fault is that he's extremely stubborn and it showed tonight. Our best move tonight would have been to sit DC. He was ineffective offensively and was getting killed defensively where he couldn't matchup with the size of the Tigers. Had Howland pulled DC, we could have brought in Keefe, Aboya or Mata to help control the boards and most importantly, dropped Luc to the 3 where he could match up with Douglas-Roberts. There were many other questionable coaching decisions and Howland certainly was outcoached. However, Howland lost on one night and I think he allowed one bad night after 5 years of fantastic work.
    I am not sure Howland had to pull DC out of the game, but I think he did need to take DC off Rose. I think our best defensive combination was having RW on Rose, LRMAM on CDR, either DC or JS on Anderson, and then rotate KL, JK, AA2 and LMR on the front line.

    I am not sure how many folks noticed the times LRMAM (who except for those jumpers had a great night) was guarding CDR, CDR was having a hard time getting of his shots.

    Also as much as RW was rushing at times (on transition) at the 2 spot, he was much more settled down at 1 when DC went out with the 4th foul.

  • Offensive strategery: The point above brings me to offensive strategy. This is where I break out in cold sweat thinking back to last night finding myself nodding to Billy Packer's game observation. Packer was saying how UCLA should have run their offense going inside-out rather than outside-in. In other words instead of looking for jumpers, we should have been looking for our big guy - Love - inside. Now KL was doubled team a lot so I understand it was hard to get him the ball. But if he was getting double teamed, then why not look for Luc in the paint (like we did beautifully in our very first possession of the game). We started doing a little bit of that in the second half, but then we went away from it. But to me it seemed like our backcourt let us down a bit in not looking enough for either KL or LRMAM to set them up inside.

  • Desire: I wrote last night that the Tigers wanted it more and some folks disagreed with some good points. Thinking it over let me see if I can hash this out a little more. I didn't mean to knock the effort our guys gave in that game. However, I do believe the Tigers looked lot more focused and were more aggressive around the boards. As much as it pains me to writ this considering his taunting of Love after a vicious CDR throw down, Joey Dorsey was a monster around the boards on both ends of the floor. I also thought Memphis guards were lot more decisive in their execution. I have no doubt that our boys had the desire to get to Monday's game, but I do think they were outmatched in that department. It's tough for me to accept that given this pretty much never happens in the world of Ben Ball. But then again this is the Final-4 in which we get to face the ultimate competition. Let's hope in the future when our guys get back in the show, this lesson remains in play.
Now in terms of looking ahead, here is Dohn on KL and DC:
"This loss is more painful," Collison said. "I couldn't care less about that (NBA) decision. As a competitor, you get three opportunities and to lose them that's why you have to get better."

Collison's farewell may be a two-point, five-turnover performance in which he went 1 for 9 from the field. He said he will talk with his family at a later date.

Love scored 12 points and had nine rebounds despite constant double-teams. He said his decision won't be made public until after he speaks with his family.

"As of right now I'm still a UCLA Bruin," Love said. "I'll be at class Monday. I'll step back and go home and talk to some people, talk to my family, and see what my options are.

"I'm still young. I still have a lot to work on. I can come back for another year of college, really my skills and get in better shape. Another year of maturity would be great, but we'll see what happens. There's a lot that goes into this decision. I have no idea what I'm going to do yet."
I mean it when I say whatever these two kids (and RW) do after gathering all the information necessary and doing their research, I will support them. I am not going to impose my selfish desire as may alma mater's basketball fan to impose any weight of expectations on what's the right thing for them to do.  All of them are smart, talented kids who are capable of making the decision what's best for themselves and their family.

So I am not going to get into any kind of breathless speculation on whether they should stay or go. In the coming weeks, I will try to think through and analyze how our rotation is going to look depending on who is coming back. However, I don't feel that sense of urgency and if someone wants to get started with that ... there is always the diary section or for my fellow frontpagers ... the home page. In other words don't wait for my thoughts. :-)

Anyway, I think that's enough for me. I gotta figure out something to get the visions of last night out of my head.  No worries it won't be that difficult considering the passion bucket is already flowing over at Spalding Field.

In closing, thank you again to Coach Howland, his staff, our players, the Den, and everyone here for making 2007-08 yet another epic Ben Ball season.

Photo Credit:dbruin's photostream (flickr)

That's how we should remember our boys: standing ovation all around.

And as we have already said: we will be back. If you have any doubt about that just ask yourself this: if you or I are feeling this way inside today, just imagine what is going through Coach Howland's mind? Remember about the draped clocks and double socks. That should put a smile on your face heading into 08-09.