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Ben Howland And UCLA: A Historically Bad Four Seasons

As bad as UCLA or any elite program has ever seen.
As bad as UCLA or any elite program has ever seen.

George Dohrmann's Sports Illustrated article exposed many of the failings in Ben Howland's program opened the eyes of many to the problems of the UCLA basketball program. He lost control of the program as his people skills, or lack thereof, inability to command respect from his players and poor scouting/recruiting led to the spiraling of a once-proud program.

Put aside the Sports Illustrated article, though. Pretend it doesn't exist and ignore the players who have fled the program, diminished interest in the team and all of other issues in the program. Let's take an opportunity to evaluate the program on one thing and the most important thing at that -- results.

Four of the Worst Years in UCLA Basketball History

UCLA has not advanced beyond the second round of the NCAA Tournament in the last four years, with a total of two NCAA Tournament wins to their name. The last time the Bruins won that few tournament games in four years was from 2002 to 2005, during which Steve Lavin was fired. Before that, UCLA last won just two NCAA Tournament games from 1982 to 1988 and neither Larry Farmer nor Walt Hazzard survived that stretch. Prior to that, you have to go all the way back to 1957 through 1961 to find a four-year stretch in which UCLA did not win more than two NCAA Tournament games, but in each of those years the Bruins finished second or third in the conference only to miss the tournament because only conference champions qualified.

When looking for prior UCLA teams to miss the NCAA Tournament twice in three years, like this Bruin team has, you have to go back to the same stretches. Lavin was fired after missing the tournament once and it was followed up by another missed tournament in Ben Howland's first year. Farmer and Hazzard also missed the tournament in two out of three years and neither one had their job at the end of it.

As bad as those stretches were for UCLA, neither Lavin, Farmer nor Hazzard ever presided over three straight double-digit loss seasons. The Bruins have lost 18, 11 and 14 games in the last three seasons, marking the first time that any UCLA coach has lost double-digit games in three straight seasons since Wilbur Johns in 1944-1946.

Ugly Numbers From the Last Four Years

  • Have not been ranked for a single week during the season in the last three years.
  • Have not won a Pac-10/12 regular-season or tournament title the last four years.
  • Have not advanced beyond the semifinals of the Pac-10/12 Tournament for four straight years and have not even made it to the semifinals in the last two years.
  • 13-27 in road and neutral games in the last three years.
  • 3-9 vs. ranked teams in the last three years with two times as many losses (six) to non-NCAA tournament teams from non-power conferences in that span.
  • As many or more double-digit point losses than wins in non-conference play in two of the last three years. The Bruins' schedules in those years were ranked 103rd and 43rd nationally.
  • Have not won more than 23 games in any of the last three seasons.

How It Stacks Up To "Elite" Programs

UCLA likes to tout itself as an elite college basketball program and their 11 national titles is more than enough reason to. So are the 18 Final Fours that the Bruins have advanced to, 12 NCAA title game appearances and 25 Final Four wins, all of which are NCAA records.

College basketball's elite like to compare themselves to each other. They hold themselves to a higher standard and the widely agree upper-echelon of programs in history are UCLA, Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Indiana and Kentucky, but if Howland is coaching the Bruins in 2012-2013, UCLA will have had the least successful three-year run of any elite program in the 64-team tournament era without terminating their head coach.

Kansas has missed the tournament just once since the field expanded and that was because they were banned as part of their NCAA probation.

The last time that Duke has missed the NCAA Tournament in two of three years was way back in 1981-1983, which was before the tournament expanded to 64 teams and it was Mike Krzyzewski's first three seasons in charge. Since then, they have missed the tournament just once (the year Krzyzewski took a leave of absence) and the only time they have had two or fewer NCAA tournament wins in four-year span includes the season that Krzyzewski took a leave of absence.

North Carolina has missed the tournament in two out of three years just once in the 64-team tournament era and Matt Doherty "resigned" after those three years.

At Indiana, when seasons with NCAA sanctions and their fallout are taken out of consideration, they too have missed the tournament in two out of three years just once. Mike Davis was axed after that three-year space despite being just four years removed from advancing to the NCAA Tournament title game.

Kentucky has gone through more struggles than the others, but they have never tolerated them. Billy Gillespie made the tournament in his first season and missed it in his second and was fired, albeit with off-the-court issues also playing a part. Before him, Tubby Smith resigned under speculation that he might be fired for poor performances despite never missing the tournament, winning a national title and being just three years removed from an Elite Eight appearance.

The elite programs have clearly set their standards. Either UCLA is blind to the elite or doesn't believe it is elite anymore, but neither is encouraging for Bruins fans. Then again, what has been encouraging the last four years?