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Staying Even Keeled Through Our (Ben Ball) Excitement

Ben Ball warriors now have the attention of the nation. We no longer have to deal with the idiotic bubble talk we had to suffer through just few weeks. Instead UCLA has now rocketed up to no.6 in WWL/USA Today Coach's poll and up to no. 11 in the AP one. BTW I wonder why we are ranked so high in the Coach's poll? May be other coaches are afraid to match up against Ben Howland? j/k. I don't really know and I don't really care.

Also you guys have already flagged the John Gasaway article from Basketball Prospectus in which John is effusive in praise of our warriors calling UCLA "wildly underrated." John becomes one of the few national analysts who realizes how UCLA's offense has been clicking on all cylinders this season:

This is the best offense the Pac-10 has seen in years. The fact that the precise opposite is being said only reinforces the healthy skepticism we should all reserve for anything that's merely said and not checked, as well as reiterating the value of per-possession stats as opposed to per-game stats.

When it comes to the Bruin offense, why is everyone looking excellence in the eye and proclaiming it mediocre? I think there are at least two contributing factors.

First, UCLA really did look wretched on offense when they lost to Michigan back in November, scoring just 52 points in a 58-possession game. It was just one game, of course, but it was a nationally televised Coaches vs. Cancer Classic semifinal with Dickie V. in attendance. This one game effectively served as the introduction of this new-look team to the nation--and the introduction wasn't pretty. (Not to mention losing to the Wolverines left a lasting dent in the Bruins' RPI, which at 27 is about 20 spots lower than it "should" be for a Pac-10 team this good.)

Second, this is a freakishly balanced offense, one that defies the casual fan's expectation that a great offense means a great scorer. Love was the star last year and he used a star's share of the possessions. This year Love's possessions have been split up and passed around. Darren Collison is having a particularly outstanding season, running the offense and delivering assists while hitting 40 percent of his threes and 60 percent of his twos. Still, you're not going to get Stephen Curry-level ink when you average 14 points a game. Too bad, because Collison and his team deserve more ink.

Perhaps we deserse more ink but honestly I am not sure how much I really care. Already talks are heating up all over the place about what seed we are looking at for the Big Dance. Brian Dohn breathlessly posted about UCLA and NCAA seeding over at his blog on Daily News.

Yet as John pointed above, Bruins are about to get ready for one of the most difficult road trips of this season:

The Bruins are about to embark on their annual excursion across the border to the east, playing at Arizona State Thursday night and at Arizona Saturday morning. The Sun Devils already won at Pauley Pavilion and the Wildcats have won four in a row. It's quite possible that the Bruins could go 1-1 on this trip, and indeed it's not at all inconceivable that they could go 0-2. That's life in the Pac-10.

No kidding. One loss and all the nattering nabob of negativity will be coming out of the woodwork, whining about Howland's offense and few morons will be firing off letter to the Trojan Times and call some stupid talk shows on worthless sports radio. The same posters who are yammering about Final-4s on the message boards will turn right back and start whaling about Howland's TO habits in the second half. It's kind of ridiculous.

I think the call for perspective is worth repeating again. This season has been as much fun as the one we enjoyed three years ago when a young Howland team was just gelling together in which experienced seniors who had been around were starting to fit in well with confident younger core of AA, JF, LMR, DC and LRMAM. I see lot of that going on this year well. Yet I don't think the roller coaster is over yet.

Last few games our offense has been explosive. Yet we need to keep in mind we weren't exactly taking on defensive powerhouses in Cal, Stanford and Notre Dame. The performance against Floyd's JustSC defense was impressive but I think we will have to see whether our guys will be able to repeating that against the Sun Devils. The Sun Devils are one of the best coached team in the entire conference who have always posed a challenge against our team with their well schemed zone defense. Despite our great start against them we froze up in crunch time and we didn't have an answer for Harden and Pendergraph when it mattered. It will be interesting to see how far we have improved since that game against Pauley. As John referenced above it will not be a total shocked if things don't go our way on Thursday night. Yet through it all we need to maintain perspective and stay on even keel through rest of the season.

So once again for anyone getting carried away with talks about seedings and rankings we urge you take this whole ride one game at a time.