Before the season I committed to Joe to do a "news roundup" of the media coverage of UCLA basketball games the day after each game. The first games had a dearth of coverage with only a few news media outlets bothering to cover the games. In fact it was so bad that Inside UCLA was not even bothering to cover the games.
Now the opposite is true. Inside UCLA has one entry which is a gateway to seven links on the UCLA's 102-84 win last night over Michigan. Clowns/Haters such as Bill Plaschke are now in full on bandwagon mode. Plaschke is no doubt coming to UCLA games again to watch the celebrities and because Pauley is now the place to be:
You want special? From the filled arena to the deafening cheers to the old-timers in worn UCLA jackets high-fiving kids in backward Bruins caps, Pauley has shaken off the cobwebs to become a hot spot again.
Yes, on Saturday, that was Jessica Alba kissing her father-in-law Mike Warren courtside. And, yes, Vince Vaughn was really shaking a Bruins pom-pom. . . .
With all due respect to the crazy years of Steve Lavin and the Final Four teams of Ben Howland, the last time UCLA baketball felt this cool was in 1995, and you know what happened then.
While Plaschke thinks his time on ESPN makes him one of the celebrities, the reality is he is just one of the many national figures and networks watching UCLA now. More importantly, they are praising UCLA in a seeming competition to who can outdo the other:
1. UCLA is college's version of the Warriors
I'm ready to say this for a number of reasons. First, the backcourt, Lonzo Ball and Bryce Alford, can, and will, let it fly with true Splash Brothers range (they finished a combined 7-of-13 from deep on Saturday). Also, the Bruins' pace is unrelenting. They run on misses, makes, steals, everything. They score in bunches. They move the ball with the kind of pace and feel that you just don't normally see from a college team -- which is a credit to Ball and Bruins coach Steve Alford, probably in equal parts.
But mostly, it's the fun factor that makes them the Golden State of college. You can't take your eyes off these Bruins for one second. They are up and down, cutting, dunking, defending and then out pushing again. Like the Warriors, they just look like they're playing a different game at times, which is how Michigan shot ... wait for it ... 12 for 16 on 3-pointers in the first half and still didn't lead.
Why? Because Ball hit this absolutely casual, Steph Curry-like 35-footer to close the first half, knotting the game at 50.
A local version of the National Hype:
These offensive performances are reaching such heights that UCLA coach Steve Alford called his team's attack "the most phenomenal offense I can think of in my career." Oh yeah, they played some defense too, holding Michigan to 34 percent shooting in the decisive second half.
On the game last night, we will quote an actual LA Times Reporter, unlike Plashcke, Ben Bloch, who summed it up:
UCLA didn't just avoid a letdown in its first game after beating top-ranked Kentucky, it zoomed to new heights, pulverizing a Wolverines defense that had ranked ninth nationally by holding teams to an average of 58 points per game.
The Bruins were efficiency experts, making 39 of 58 shots (67.2%) and 15 of 24 from three-point range (62.5%) while collecting 23 assists and only eight turnovers. Alford noted that his team's 63 possessions were its fewest of the season and yet it still reached triple digits in points.
The score was tied, 50-50, at halftime after the normally plodding Wolverines mirrored UCLA in unexpected ways, shooting early in the shot clock and attempting three-pointer after three-pointer. It was a good plan since they nearly all went in.
Then the Bruins finally played some defense. Michigan shot 34.5% and made only two of 10 three-pointer attempts in the second half, making for a happy UCLA homecoming.
Maybe the best praise comes from the Michigan Coach John Beilein:
"They're really good with five guys that can hurt you," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "We probably won't see a team that has five guys that can attack and hurt you. In our league we may have three guys."
The scary things is we were missing Thomas Welsh (doubtful for Wednesday) who would give us another guy who can really "hurt" opponents.
Go Bruins! Keep living up to the hype.