The old coach had something to say after practice at the beginning of this season, so University of California at Los Angeles aged people Jaime Jaques Jr., Tiger Campbell And David Singleton gathered around.
Everyone was respectful, they listened carefully. Ben Howland was an expert on the subject.
“Look,” Howland told them, “you guys have to do everything you can to get number one.” 1 seed in the West.”
It has become a sort of mantra, keeping them on long winning streaks and refocusing them after a few losses. Now, this might be just what the Bruins need to get through an emotionally challenging week.
Having won the Pac-12 Conference regular season title two games to the end, Bruins in fourth place (25-4 overall, 16-2 Pac-12) might be tempted to take a winning lap that would result in him head-butting the wall inside the Pauly Pavilion.
It helps that several incentives are built into UCLA’s last two home games of the season against Thursday. Arizona (20-9, 11-7) and Saturday against eighth in Arizona. Extending the country’s longest active home winning streak of 23 games is a priority. As well as sending the seniors off as winners in their last home game, even though Campbell pointed out Wednesday, he’s not sure if that counts as his goodbye given his remaining year of eligibility.
But if the Bruins find they need an extra push, they can always go back to that mantra.
“Coach Howland talks about the only seed in the West, I think that’s what we really remember throughout the season,” Jacques said. “When things weren’t going well, we had to always remember what we were aiming for and that was to get that one seed and just put us in the best position to win the national championship.”
Howland knows how to win the West. He was the last UCLA coach to lead his team to the top spot. 1st in the NCAA Tournament by capturing the Western Region in 2008. These Bruins advanced to the Final Four in San Antonio via the first two rounds in Anaheim and the regional rounds in Phoenix.
Assurance no. 1 page no. The second seeding in the West this season will result in a similarly favorable route. The Bruins are pretty sure they’ll start with Sacramento regardless of their performance in the next two weeks, but a strong finish is likely to guarantee a place in the West Region, including his latest games at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Staying close to home would limit travel and presumably give the Bruins a fan advantage.
“If we’re going to do this,” Cronin said, “we need to win two this week.”
In their latest forecasts, released on Tuesday, Parentheses Matrix UCLA was ranked number one in the 2nd seed, with 23 out of 110 draws taking the Bruins to second place. 1 seed The first seed most vulnerable to overtaking is Purdue, who have lost four of their last six games.
In his most recent ranking, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi named Kansas the No. 1.1 seed in the West, Houston the No. 1.1 seed in the Midwest, Purdue as the No. 1 seed. #1 East and Alabama #1 1 South.
To stand a chance of joining this exclusive list, UCLA must be unbeaten by two highly motivated rivals.
Arizona also continues to claim one of the best spots in the West even after Arizona State was stunned by 60-foot Desmond Cambridge Jr. on the buzzer last weekend. The Sun Devils probably need to at least split their games against UCLA and USC this week to be sure of their chances for the NCAA Tournament in the Pac-12 tournament.
Having received congratulatory calls and texts after his team beat Colorado on Sunday to clinch the Pac-12 title, Cronin knows his players receive similar compliments that can lead to complacency. Just look at Indiana, Cronin said. Three days after defeating Purdue on the road, the Hoosiers returned home and lost to Iowa.
“Obviously,” Cronin said, “it bothers me that I have a lot of faith in your emotional gas tank.”
Howland was among those who conveyed their greetings to Cronin. The coaches had known each other since basketball kingpin Sonny Vaccaro recommended Cronin, then assistant to Bob Huggins of Cincinnati, to join Howland’s Pittsburgh headquarters.
“I said to Sonny, ‘You’re trying to help Ben Howland,’” Cronin recalled, “and he said, ‘Yes, I’m very close to him,’ and I said, ‘Well, how about trying to help. Mick Cronin.
Cronin remained on Huggins’ staff before being replaced in 2006. He faced Howland in club recruiting tournaments, sparking appreciation for the equally serious defensively minded coach who led UCLA to three consecutive Final Fours before being fired in 2013. , led to seven seasons in Mississippi. .
Cronin has been welcoming Howland to campus since he was fired from the Bulldogs last spring, inviting the 65-year-old to practice and gifting him a John Wooden-era UCLA pilot’s jacket. In December, Howland was the honorary captain during a game against Oregon at the Pauley Pavilion.
It was no surprise to Cronin what an exceptionally focused Howland told him after Cronin’s team became the first at UCLA to win a conference regular season title since Howland’s last game against the Bruins.
“He said, ‘You have to win the next two,’ said Cronin, ‘and get one seed in the West.’ “