UCLA Snubbed by the N.I.T.
Quit your whining, UConn and Carolina fans, a UCLA fan wishes to opine. In what completes the most disappointing season for Bruin basketball in the Ben Howland era, UCLA stumbled out of the gate and bumbled to a 14-18 record. Forget making it to the Big Dance, the losing season left the Bruins far short of even qualifying for the N.I.T., where 32 teams battle for the right to be called the 66th best team in the country. Adding insult to injury is that our three top players are with other teams — Jrue Holiday is on the 76ers, Chace Stanback is starring for UNLV, and Drew Gordon is playing for team Mom.
Though I can hardly blame Howland for Holiday’s exile to the NBA — Darren Collison’s return for a senior season screwed up the point guard and scholarship situation — it’s difficult to fathom that the program sunk to these depths and that the season was only saved by an equally pathetic conference. Adding up the evidence however, can present a potentially ugly issue at hand. Is it any coincidence that Jordan Farmar and J’rue Holiday left early for the NBA and that Stanback and Gordon both transferred out of the program? I think it’s fair to say that both Farmar and Holiday could have built up their draft stocks by staying an extra year but they chose not to. Stanback could have been unhappy with playing time and Gordon could have been a “me first” jerk, but I think there is an underlying tie that might bind all four: UCLA is not a place where one can showcase his offensive talent.
Sure, UCLA has produced loads of talent for the NBA the past few years — Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, and Darren Collison certainly fit that bill, not to mention Farmar and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, but the program seems to lack a true scorer. Tyler Honeycutt and Reeves Nelson appear to be the cornerstones of a tough frontcourt around whom the program can build the next three years. The question is if the Bruins need more guys like Mbah a Moute who took pride in defense and were willing to do the dirty work the way Nelson appears to be doing, or do the Bruins need to open up offensively to attract the elite scoring guards? I think the answer is a little of column A and a little of column B and it better happen fast. One year of this was unbearable. Two years is inexcusable. Three is fireable. Here’s to a turnaround in ’10-’11.