Sunday, March 25, 2007

Commentary: Bruins deserved this


— They celebrated, but not too wildly.

Donned their regional championship hats and T-shirts, hugged, waved to the crowd.

The Bruins clearly enjoyed their moment, only it seemed contained euphoria. A practiced, almost controlled celebration.

Their eyes are honed on a greater prize. They have been all season. Unlike last year, there was no discovering just how good they are as the postseason progressed. They started back in November believing they were exactly this good.

The UCLA Bruins are going to the Final Four. They call it that for good reason. Only four college basketball teams will remain standing by today's end, and for the second consecutive year, the Bruins will be one of them.

And that deserves acclaim, deserves special recognition. Deserves for the Bruins to feel very good about themselves.

UCLA beat an excellent Kansas team Saturday, 68-55, to capture the West and advance to the Final Four in Atlanta.

"We played the best team we've played all year today," said UCLA coach Ben Howland.

They did it by doing many of the things they've done well all season - stifling defense, controlling the tempo, using the clock, getting big play from Arron Afflalo - and some they did because they had to - hitting last-second shots, running early, getting strong bench play and overcoming a whopping 25 turnovers.

They did it with perhaps their most entertaining game of the year. The first half was an absolute jaw-dropper. There were incredibly athletic plays all over the court by both teams. Leads going back and forth. Players skying, spinning, almost flying.

When Josh Shipp hit a three-pointer at the first-half buzzer, UCLA overcame a six-point deficit to lead 35-31 at the break. It was that rare intermission where you couldn't wait for the second half to begin.

"I'm looking forward to watching the game," Howland said.

In the second half, UCLA and Afflalo began to take control. The Bruins pushed their lead to 11 points, though with the talented Jayhawks, no lead felt truly safe.

Certainly, the Bruins were playing far from a perfect game. As has been the case throughout the tournament, the offense would stall, the decidedly pro-UCLA crowd would begin a clock countdown, and then some last-second shot would be unleashed. And more often than not, somehow find only net.

The Bruins were up just 55-50 with 4:43 left when Darren Collison hit a three-pointer with half the Kansas team closing on him at the buzzer.

"Going up eight late in the game, on the shot clock, two guys in his face, (it) was a beautiful thing to watch," Afflalo said.

The Bruins were in control now, and there would be no amazing Kansas comeback to thwart UCLA's goal.

"We played a very good team today, a team that can win it all," said Kansas coach Bill Self.

He called this Jayhawk team the best he has coached in his 14 seasons. It was the fourth time a Self team had advanced to the Elite Eight. The fourth time he was turned away.

"It hurts," he said.

Because it is so very hard to do, such a difficult task to overcome. Over 330 schools play Div. I basketball, and only four will go to Atlanta.

That is why UCLA needs to celebrate this as a wonderful accomplishment on its own. Needs to understand just how special it is to advance.

"We're going to enjoy this win," said forward Michael Roll. "It's a great win for us. We're going to the Final Four, which is a great time.

"But we know what we have to do when we get there. Ever since practice first started, this has been our goal."

The Bruins will play the winner of today's Florida-Oregon game. They know both extremely well.

Oregon, of course, is from the Pac-10 Conference.

They split their two conference games with the Ducks.

Their Florida remembrance is even more painful. It was the Gators who defeated UCLA last year in the NCAA championship game, beating them rather easily, 73-57.

It has driven the Bruins all season. Been less a rallying cry, than simple motivation.

This year their gaze has been constant, the play steady, confident.

"Our team has just been spectacular," Howland said. "We're playing our best basketball of the season right now."

Maybe it all ends against Florida again, a game shy of the national championship.

If it does, it still has been a wondrous journey on its own. A moment to be cherished regardless of whatever awaits.


Displayhawk 15 years, 4 months ago

The Bruins didn't deserve this! Kansas gave them this game!

Chris McIlvain 15 years, 4 months ago

Stay in denial's so much more comfortable there, isn't it?

Displayhawk 15 years, 4 months ago

We lost! ....I can deal! But I still think KU would beat UCLA at least 8 out of 10 times if they played like they are capable of playing!

Chris McIlvain 15 years, 4 months ago

You obviously aren't dealing. We have lost to them 5 STRAIGHT TIMES in the NCAA tournament. We have NEVER beat them in that arena. Do the math

Displayhawk 15 years, 4 months ago

Sounds to me like you are one who can't deal with it, APDJ! Do the math??? ......Stop doing the meth! How can you even compare all of those teams that lost to UCLA before to this team??? Different teams and different times!

tim deegan 15 years, 4 months ago

yea, it sure seemed they took advantage of us on an off night. 45% at the line - i know i'm a broken record on this, but dang i get tired of this stat biting us in the ass. the 17 missed layups didn't help much either.

didn't know we had lost to them 5 times straight though. maybe next year. i sure had fun watching them this year.

cya in the fall y'all

Chris McIlvain 15 years, 4 months ago

UCLA lost 3 starters from last year's team that played for the championship. How many starters did we lose? NONE! UCLA is the better team. Does that make me less of a Jayhawk fan? NO! They out-played us and we were outcoached.

Displayhawk 15 years, 4 months ago

The seasons over, APDJ! .......Let it go!

Chris McIlvain 15 years, 4 months ago

I let it go at half-time...along with the team! But boy oh boy, I can't wait 'til next year! LOL

Displayhawk 15 years, 4 months ago

Now there's something we can agree on! ....GO HAWKS!

Chris McIlvain 15 years, 4 months ago

Roy Williams is 13 minutes from taking North Carolina to it's 2nd Final Four in 4 years. I can only imagine how heart-wrenching it's going to be for most KU fans when he wins his 2nd National Championship in 4 years with that team! But let's keep singing the praises of Bill Self! LOL!!!

Andrew Ledell 15 years, 4 months ago

I propose APDJayhawk changes his name to "Debbie Downer." Then I can remember to NOT read all of his "realistic" posts that don't do any of us any good. If you are frustrated to the point where you make comments like that, just give up! Most of us WANT to look forward to next year. We really WANT to see KU win it all. And, even when they don't, we still love them!

Chris McIlvain 15 years, 4 months ago

Debbie Downer? VERY original! Ok, so KU loses in post-season, AGAIN, but heaven forbid we acually point out the short-comings. I would love to have worked for any one of you people when I was in school. Sorry for my shortcomings but I will be back next year! LOL

Andrew Ledell 15 years, 4 months ago

Actually, I did think it was pretty original. Haven't you seen the SNL sketch where any time anyone tries to say anything positive, Debbie comes in and tears it all down, followed by the sad trumpet sounds? I just don't get why you'd want to disparage a team you supposedly love in the first place, not to mention the fact they just won a regular season and conference tournament championship, then followed it up with an Elite 8 apperance, in which they fell (albeit not with a great effort) to another top 10 team. It just doesn't make sense. I know people on this board often say, "go back to K-State or Mizzou or wherever you came from," but the tone of your posts makes me legitimately suspicious that you are a fan of a rival team, just trying to stir the pot and incite controversy on such a happy, pro-Jayhawk board. If you love the Hawks, c'mon man, just love them for what they are: ONE of the best teams in the country. They can't win the national title every year, let alone every 5-10, nor should we expect them to.

BTW... That 13 minutes or whatever til Roy was going to be in the Final Four... Yeah, how's that working out for you? See? Even the supposedly infallible UNC, which you seem to view as some magical fairly land of national titles, still falls short.

Chris McIlvain 15 years, 4 months ago

Good Ol' Roy...still loves Kansas! Classic Kansas post-season meltdown dressed in Carolina Blue! Please show me where I have disparaged the team? I have quoted nothing but facts about past teams which strongly supports my position that we will not be winning any championships here anytime soon. I didn't disparage Self or any team member. Quit watching so much late night mind-numbing nonsense and you might be ok...

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