I know, I know, technically their season is not over just yet, as they face Arizona in the Pac-10 Tournament at Staples Center today, but…
After all the futility that the UCLA Bruins have gone through in basketball this season, the most positive thing that I can say about this hoops squad can be summed up in three words:
It is over.
Bruin fans will no longer have to suffer through games such as the 20-point blowouts at the hands of Portland (of all people!), Washington, and USC.
They will no longer have to sit through humiliating losses such as Mississippi State and two local mid-major teams that are supposed to be glorified scrimmages and guaranteed wins every year: Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State.
And they will no longer have to endure such madness as players air balling free throws and put backs, opponents creating highlight reel-level dunks, and putting up enough bricks on jump shots to solve L.A.’s homeless problem; that has all happened with Ben Howland’s Bad News Bruins this year.
Not to mention a key post guy who was actually playing well, Drew Gordon, quitting the team and transferring to New Mexico amid much acrimony; would you believe he ended up fourth on the team in minutes and points (11.2) per game?
And he only played six games!
Quite a sad comment on the Bruins’ fortunes.
Having assured themselves of only their third losing season in 55 years, it would be easy to point fingers, assign blame, and single out scapegoats. It would be easy to make excuses, such as the fact that UCLA was rocked by the early departures of Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, and especially Jrue Holiday.
However, even though Jerime Anderson and Malcolm Lee were failures at point guard, and Nikola Dragovic was absolutely pathetic at times, shooting just 38 percent for the year (I’m SO glad that senior’s gone!), I won’t put the blame of the Bruins’ Charlie Brown-like woes solely on them.
Or anyone else for that matter.
I must be honest: I felt that for all intents and purposes, the season ended on January 16th at Pauley Pavilion, when crosstown enemy USC scored their biggest win in their history over UCLA in that building, 67-46, in a game where the Bruins seemingly didn’t even try and let the Trojans run all over them and push them around on their home floor.
From that point on, I knew that the players just didn’t have it; I began to look toward next year then.
Shockingly enough, there were some Bruin bright spots on the hardwood.
Reeves Nelson and Tyler Honeycutt played well and were effective on the boards, especially Nelson, who was a beast. They will undoubtedly be impact players next season, particularly if Nelson’s corneas hold up; he needs to wear goggles from now on.
And though you can’t mistake him for Kobe Bryant or LeBron James, and he certainly wasn’t the type of go-to guy that can win games for you, Michael Roll had a very good senior campaign at forward, leading the Bruins in field goals, assists (if you can believe that), and three-point percentage (46 percent), and was UCLA’s top scorer at 13.5 points a game.
On top of all of that, he was named to the All-Pac 10 Conference’s first team for his efforts; to that I say “Well done.”
I’m sure that many folks are wondering about the Bruins’ prospects for 2010-2011.
They have to be better, because they can’t get much worse.
One could say that some of UCLA’s best players are not in Westwood yet; Lazeric Jones, a well-regarded junior college transfer from Chicago, will take over at the point. Tyler Lamb, a guard from Santa Ana Mater Dei High School, and Josh Smith, a 6’9″ giant weighing over 300 ponds, will get an excellent chance to earn playing time.
If I were them, I would be most excited about stepping into a situation like UCLA’s where I can contribute right away and help turn things around quickly; that’s the position these new players will be in.
Will those newcomers, along with Nelson, Honeycutt, Anderson, and Lee, be able to lead the Bruins back to respectability?
Though I am confident that they will win more than the 14 games they won this year, it remains to be seen whether or not this disaster of a season is a mere one-year bump in the road, or the starting point to long rebuilding process.
I certainly hope that it will be more one than the other.