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UCLA Basketball's Dumpster Fire Season Turns March Madness Into March Sadness

The situation with Howland remains toxic at UCLA.  (Photo by Chris Chambers/Getty Images)
The situation with Howland remains toxic at UCLA. (Photo by Chris Chambers/Getty Images)
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Well, this has been a bizarre season.

Although Ben Howland will be back next year, Block and Chianti Dan have set him up to be thrown under the bus, while taking zero responsibility for their own leadership failures.

Meanwhile, Ben is going rogue, running to -- of all people -- T.J. Simers looking for a puff piece like the embarrassingly sycophantic article by David Wharton. I guess at least for Chianti Dan the crisis communications money paid off. Unfortunately for Ben, he did not come off as well in Simers' piece as Chianti Dan did in Pravda Wharton's article:

What's lost in all this is that with all the blame and pointing fingers Howland is doing here; at having to live up to Coach's legacy, at the fans, at technology, at the kids themselves, and the people who follow them on Twitter, there is little in the way of accepting personal responsibility for his failure. He sums it all up with "We've made mistakes". Excuse me, but the mistakes made are more than enough meat for a full article when you compare it to this trivial nonsense he's trotting out as he blames everyone else. A significant portion of the fanbase may have even been placated if we knew that he understood exactly what was wrong over the past few years and laid out in detail his plans to fix it. The "mistakes" deserve more than one line.

Desperation has a pretty bad stench. Simers' column is titled "Ben Howland says he's a good guy". The contents of the article itself suggest he's not.

And as bad as Howland has been, the conduct of Block and Chianti has been truly shameful, essentially abdicating all responsibility and trying to set up Howland as the fall guy. Howland has proven he deserves to be fired for on-the-court results alone:

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 missthe 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.

But as bad as all that is, Chianti's performance has been a complete and utter disaster and completely devoid of any leadership.

All this time, Ben is begging for an NIT spot that we never should have been looking for. And embarrassment piles on embarrassment as even after prostrating ourselves in front of the NIT and begging for a spot, we were snubbed while programs Stanford and Oregon are in. Even Oregon State and Washington State made the CBI. Whatever, this year's dumpster fire basketball team didn't deserve the "reward" of postseason play, and there was no point in meaningless exhibition games. It seems like this team doesn't care, and Ben doesn't make any adjustments, so extra practice seems worthless.

Meanwhile, CU was led into the tourney by freshman point guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who Howland never bothered to recruit seriously. Think we could use a point guard? Then it happened again with Tyrone Wallace and meanwhile, it could be happening again, with another Taft prospect, Anthony January.

And I know a lot of Howlers are pinning their hopes on a glorious run with new recruits next year. But even if even we get Shabazz for one year, who's to say that he's going to live up to the hype? Jrue Holiday wasn't anything special as a freshman, and was still a one and done. O.J. Mayo and DeMar DeRozan didn't lead the school across town to any Final Fours. For all of Kentucky's recent regular season success, they haven't won any championships with Calipari's one and done strategy. Meanwhile, Shabazz, Anderson, and Parker are all likely one and dones and would likely leave gaping holes on the roster as there really aren't strong indications that Howland's going have to strong 2013 class at this point.

Still, this doesn't exactly sound like a ringing endorsement, and we all know that if necessary Chianti Dan will throw anyone under the bus to avoid responsibility for his own leadership failures and save his own job as the highest paid AD in the Pac-12. It looks like Chianti Dan is pinning his hopes on one-and-done teenagers like Shabazz Muhammad. Even if Howland gets a big recruiting class, there's no guarantee that will lead to on-the-court success in 2012-2013 and with the recruiting failures Howland has had in recent years, it seems likely that 2013-2014's roster will be severely depleted.

So, where does that leave us? Sitting at home while the madness is about to begin, and the Howlers are hoping that a teenager can turn it all around. UCLA basketball used to be better than that.