What a long strange trip it’s been for these Bruins. From hype to hapless to conference champs we find ourselves looking now at the only six-seed to be expected to lose. Seems about fitting for this team considering the season they’ve endured. Or created. This is UCLA and the story should be about success and not backpacks or job statuses. But that’s the world we live in today. On to Tubby v. Ben.
Why I like them: Who doesn’t like League talent? The Bruins have arguably the NBA’s top prospect in Shabazz Muhammad and when it comes to tournament play (that’s to say win or go home) I’m generally taking the more talented team. Muhammad quickly ups the talent level of your squad. What’s more – and I mentioned this regarding Cal – is that guard play reigns supreme in March and the Bruins have one helluva PG in Larry Drew II. He finished fourth in the nation in assists per game and 37th in assist rate. Thanks in part to his consistent and heady play, the Bruins turn the ball over at just a 16% rate. Not giving the ball up can go a long way in helping them stick around this tournament.
Why I don’t like them: Jordan Adams broke his foot. I love this guy’s game and he will be sorely missed as the Bruins now further lack depth as well as a dynamic offensive threat. He’s a shot creator that aids in opening the floor up for the shooting talents of Muhammad and the Wear family. But he’s gone now, moving Norman Powell into the starting lineup, again highlighting the Bruins’ gross lack of depth. And even though it’s been curbed for a good chunk of the season, the resurfacing of Ben Howland’s job status has got to be some sort of distraction.
Poetic Justice: In the face of a critical fan base and general national tone, Ben Howland rallies his group of UNC castoffs and oft-criticized stars to make a surprising run into the Elite Eight. Howland is retained for another season and Kyle Anderson stays another year as Tony Parker swiftly and surprisingly turns into the standout we’ve expected to see. That went way down the line. But it’d be quite a big deal.
Best Possible Scenario: Larry Drew II, in his first significant tournament time, continues to play the role of on-court leader (a role he’s played fantastically) and helps the Bruins past an athletic but enigmatic Golden Gophers group. They have no answer for Shabazz Muhammad and Tony Parker plays his best game of the year exposing Minnesota’s lack of size. In the second round (yea, I’m still going to call the “third round” the second round) Kenny Boynton shoots the Gators out of the tournament and Ben’s boys find themselves with a favorable Sweet-16 matchup/rematch against SDSU. And win just because this is a best possible scenario. They unfortunately run into the red hot Michigan Wolverines who are just to tough with their big, talented guards, ending the Bruins’ lovely run on Atlanta’s doorstep.