Having hernia surgery yesterday, the one good thing that has come out of everything is me being confined to my couch and watching ohhhhh about 20 of the 24 hours of ESPN’s college basketball tipoff.
One of the more memorable games last night was the Cal St. Fullerton vs. UCLA that went into two overtimes with Fullerton pulling off the improbable upset. So, early in the season, I hate to ring the fire alarm so quickly on the UCLA Bruins for this season, however, there were definitely some genuine question marks that they will have to overcome.
For one, the Bruins lost four of five starters from last year and it shows. Anytime you lose two first round draft picks and two other very solid players, it can be very difficult to overcome no matter what program you are in. Not only is the talent loss a detriment to the team, but losing on the court and off the court leadership maybe just as important to this team.
When watching teams, I always like to look at the bench during timeouts and during the game to see how the players are acting and reacting. What I saw during crunch time of this game last night, was joking around, not taking the game seriously, and geniune immaturity–all of which is not a good sign for Coach Howland in 2009-2010.
Secondly, Cal State Fullerton was definitely the underdog team going into this game. When you see upsets, it is usually in regulation and comes down to the wire with a game winning shot of some kind. However, last night, Fullerton played with UCLA through two overtimes!!
This was not a fluke, but a team that stuck with it for 50 minutes of play and pulled out the victory on their own, not to mention, they missed countless easy buckets in regulation that would have put the game away then without the need for overtimes.
Lastly, UCLA had a very good chance to win it at the end of regulation and made, IMO, a huge coaching error. With approximately 13 seconds left, Fullerton was taking the ball out of bounds down by one and they needed a bucket to pull ahead. The Bruins had only one foul in the entire second half and had five fouls to give.
What they should have done was use five fouls and keep running the clock down. I believe they could have gotten down to two or so seconds making the last shot of the game that much harder. Instead, they tried to play defense and ended up fouling a shooter who made one of two free throws and sent the game to overtime.
I want to say and entrust my belief that Ben Howland is one heck of a college basketball coach and I believe these issues he will solve over time this year, it is the first game after all. If anybody can turn this team around, it is him, but I do believe they will not be the Bruins we have known for years. They will surely have their struggles, but rest assure Bruin fans, they will be more than ready for next year.