WESTWOOD—The potential fiasco involving the status of offensive coordinator, Norm Chow, as member of the UCLA football coaching staff has come and gone. Chow is here to stay and it looks like the football team will be looking for its second straight victory against upstart head coach Lane Kiffin next year in the Rose Bowl, when they face the Trojans of USC. That is all very exciting, but football season is still a long way off. Now that all the coach shuffling and underclassmen declaring for the NFL draft is done, the focus can almost completely shift to college basketball.
For the UCLA Bruins, college basketball season used to be the best time of the year. The students knew their team was destined to win the Pac-10 and make a deep run into the NCAA Tournament, but this year things have been a little different. Instead of hoping for a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament, everyone at UCLA is hoping the team can just get their record above 0.500. It is really no secret the basketball team is no longer the dominate force everyone feared in the Pac-10. When basketball season began, it was always a forgone conclusion UCLA would take the Pac-10 title and cruise into postseason play. The team used to make headlines for win streaks, signature wins, and championship, now the only headlines made by the basketball team are the off-the-field exploits of senior sharpshooter Nikola Dragovic.
The days of raising championship banners and cutting down the nets at the end of a Final Four win are nothing but fading memories UCLA tries to hold on to and right now there is not too much hope for those days to come back anytime soon. Ben Howland’s teams have never been criticized for their toughness or lack of commitment on defense. When a team comes to play the Bruins they know they are not going to have an easy night on offense, but one thing that allows them to kick back and relax is that they also know UCLA will not be lighting the scoreboard up on their side of the court as well. When the two go-to-guys on your team are both purely perimeter players who struggle to create their own shot, there are going to be problems on offense. As the season creeps closer and closer to March, the Bruins find themselves with a 7-10 record and a two-to-three conference record. I know I may have been pretty harsh on the boys in blue up until now, but the good news is the Bruins still have some hope left.
The 10 losses may seem pretty bad, but a majority of them came against tough non-conference teams which include: Butler, Kansas, Mississippi State and Notre Dame.
Now on to the Pac-10. Besides a complete meltdown against USC last week, the Bruins have been right there in every conference game they’ve played. One of their two wins was against the formerly ranked California Golden Bears, and if they can find a way to replicate that effort in the remainder of their Pac-10 games, the Bruins could actually stumble into the Pac-10 title or an at large bid to the NCAA tournament.
All this seems like a long shot, but it’s always nice to know your team still has a chance to turn things around. The Pittsburg Steelers put their fate into their own hands during the final stretch of the NFL season, and if it was not for the Patriots and the Bengals basically bending over for the teams they faced in the final game of the season, everyone could be talking about a Steelers repeat in the Super Bowl. The fat lady has not begun to sing yet, but you better believe she is warming up, and it’s up to the members of the UCLA basketball team to keep her off the stage.