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UCLA Crashes and Burns

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Nikola Dragovic trying to control the ball. AP Photo/Michael Perez

In the second round UCLA is routed by the Villanova Wildcats 89-69. The very physical game was never close, and UCLA looked softer than butter in the face of the 1-3-1 zone employed by the Wildcats.

Although I did have the Bruins losing in this round, it is still surprising nonetheless to see them struggle this badly. They were the Washington Generals this afternoon never playing to the potential of the name in front of their jersey.

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The Bruins were harassed by that 1-3-1 zone played 3/4 court causing troubles to even getting the ball across the time line. Once they got across half court, the Bruins could not shake off the Wildcats defenders. If they tried a perimeter shot there was a body on them. If they tried to go to the hole, there were bodies blocking the lane. Although Josh Shipp, Darren Collison and Nikola Dragovic got their share of scoring the rest of the team was colder than ice.

On defense the Bruins looked DOA. Lead footed they tried to go man-on-man but the Wildcats exploited this easily and often getting easy shots around the basket. The Wildcats got many second and third chance opportunities. Six Wildcats scored in double digits while they outrebounded UCLA 39-26, 15 of those offensive gets. Early foul trouble by Alfred Aboya didn't help things any. After two quick fouls in the opening minutes of the game, Aboya seemed a little gun shy thereafter.

During Ben Howland's tenure at UCLA the phrase, "UCLA got out-toughed," was rarely uttered, but in this case it's an understatement.

But Ben Howland really is to blame for this entire season. Noting they have no size up front he should have known they wouldn't be as defensively proficient as they have been in years past. Knowing this you have to compensate for it in other areas, let's say offense.

But UCLA's offense all year has been vanilla at best and honestly reminded me of those offenses run by Kentucky back in the 1950s and 1960s. Sure it was good enough for a down Pac-10 conference devoid of any great players save for a handful, but when you have a streak of three consecutive Final Fours on the line this is what you have?

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Ben Howland is a great coach and has done a lot to bring back the glory to the Bruins program. But his seeming disregard of the offense just made it very hard to be excited about the Bruins which is why I did have them losing to Villanova in my bracket.

In the end this will be an anomaly. As Jim Harrick says, "It's hard." The Bruins will come back and be a force in the Tournament. But for today hopefully this will be filed under "lessons learned" for Howland and the Bruins.