Ben Howland confused significance of UCLA getting West No. 1 seed

The outdated coach had one thing to say after follow earlier this season, so UCLA seniors Jaime Jaquez Jr., Tyger Campbell and David Singleton gathered round.

All being respectful, they listened intently. Ben Howland was an knowledgeable on the topic.

“Look,” Howland informed them, “you guys have to do whatever you’ve got to do to get the No. 1 seed in the West.”

It turned a mantra of types, sustaining them by way of lengthy successful streaks and refocusing them after a handful of losses. Now it may be simply what the Bruins have to get by way of an emotionally difficult week.

Having clinched the Pac-12 Conference’s regular-season title with two video games to go, the fourth-ranked Bruins (25-4 total, 16-2 Pac-12) may very well be tempted to take a victory lap that results in operating head-first right into a wall inside Pauley Pavilion.

It helps that a number of incentives are constructed into UCLA’s final two dwelling video games of the season, Thursday in opposition to Arizona State (20-9, 11-7) and Saturday in opposition to eighth-ranked Arizona. Extending the nation’s longest energetic dwelling successful streak, which stands at 23 video games, is a precedence. So is sending the seniors out as winners of their last dwelling sport, even when Campbell indicated Wednesday he’s unsure whether or not this qualifies as his farewell given his remaining yr of eligibility.

But if the Bruins discover themselves needing an additional nudge, they will at all times revisit that mantra.

“Coach Howland talking about the one seed in the West, I think that’s something that really stuck with us throughout the season,” Jaquez stated. “When things were getting tough, we had to always remember what we’re aiming for, and it was to get that one seed and just put us in the best position possible to win a national championship.”

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Howland is aware of how the West could be gained. He was the final UCLA coach to information his crew to a No. 1 seed within the NCAA event, capturing the West Region in 2008. Those Bruins superior to the Final Four in San Antonio through the primary two rounds in Anaheim and the regional rounds in Phoenix.

Securing the No. 1 or No. 2 seed within the West this season would result in equally favorable routing. The Bruins virtually are assured of beginning the event within the Sacramento pod no matter their outcomes the following two weeks, however a powerful end doubtless would assure a spot within the West Region that features its last video games at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Staying near dwelling would restrict journey and presumably give the Bruins an edge in followers.

“If we’re going to do that,” Cronin stated, “we’ve got to win two this week.”

In its most up-to-date projections, launched Tuesday, Bracket Matrix has UCLA listed as the highest No. 2 seed, with 23 of the 110 brackets vaulting the Bruins right into a No. 1 seed. The high seed most weak to being overtaken is Purdue, which has misplaced 4 of its final six video games.

UCLA guard Tyger Campbell (10) and Colorado guard KJ Simpson (2) within the first half on Sunday in Denver.

(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

In his newest bracket, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi listed Kansas because the No. 1 seed within the West, Houston as No. 1 within the Midwest, Purdue as No. 1 within the East and Alabama as No. 1 within the South.

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To have an opportunity to hitch that unique listing, UCLA should go unbeaten in opposition to two extremely motivated opponents.

Arizona additionally stays within the operating for one of many high seeds within the West even after being surprised by Arizona State final weekend on Desmond Cambridge Jr.’s 60-footer on the buzzer. The Sun Devils most likely have to a minimum of cut up their video games in opposition to UCLA and USC this week to really feel assured about their NCAA event probabilities going into the Pac-12 event.

Having fielded congratulatory calls and textual content messages since his crew beat Colorado on Sunday to clinch the Pac-12 title, Cronin is aware of his gamers are getting comparable compliments that would result in complacency. Just take a look at Indiana, Cronin stated. Three days after beating Purdue on the street, the Hoosiers got here dwelling and went splat in opposition to Iowa.

“Obviously,” Cronin stated, “the concern for me is I’m a big believer in your emotional gas tank.”

Howland was amongst those that handed his regards to Cronin. The coaches have recognized one another since basketball kingmaker Sonny Vaccaro advisable to Cronin, then an assistant beneath Cincinnati’s Bob Huggins, that he be part of Howland’s workers at Pittsburgh.

“I told Sonny, ‘You’re trying to help Ben Howland,’ ” Cronin recalled, “and he said, ‘Yeah, I’m very close with him,’ and I said, ‘Well, how about let’s try to help Mick Cronin.’

Cronin remained on Huggins’ staff before replacing him in 2006. He ran into Howland at club tournaments on the recruiting circuit, building an appreciation for the similarly no-nonsense, defense-first coach who guided UCLA to three consecutive Final Fours before his 2013 dismissal led to seven seasons at Mississippi State.

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Cronin has welcomed Howland back on campus since the Bulldogs fired him last spring, inviting the 65-year-old to practice and giving him a John Wooden-era UCLA letterman’s jacket. In December, Howland was the honorary captain during a game against Oregon at Pauley Pavilion.

It was no surprise to Cronin what the singularly focused Howland told him after Cronin’s team became the first at UCLA to win the conference’s regular-season title since Howland’s final batch of Bruins.

“He said, ‘You’ve got to win the next two,’ ” Cronin stated, “ ‘and get the one seed in the West.’ ”