After discussing the merits of the Pac-10 tournament, the complexities of the NCAA seeding process, and the possibility that his team will reach the Final Four for the third year in a row, UCLA center
Besides winning, nothing induces vitriol in college basketball quite like the appearance of preferential treatment. Last week, in a span of 48 hours, UCLA was the beneficiary of three very iffy calls. Considering that the Bruins were playing at home three favorable calls are not a lot. But the timing was crucial. One came with 2.5 seconds left in regulation against Stanford. The other two came in the final 16 seconds against Cal. All three helped the Bruins complete dramatic comeback victories that locked up the Pac-10 title and likely a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Asked if UCLA can ever complain about officiating again, at least for the rest of this season, Love responded with a grin: "I don't think we really have the right," he said.
No team that admits its good fortune can join the ranks of the hated. The Bruins recognize that they got away with one -- or two -- and cannot expect much charity from here on out. "To win a championship, sometimes you have to be a little lucky," Love said. "A lot of people are talking about those calls. But I think that will give us extra incentive to prove that we really are a legit team, a legit contender to win the title."
Right now, UCLA's existence appears charmed. Only a freshman, Love was voted Pac-10 Player of the Year. Only a sophomore,
"We want to make things as easy as possible," point guard
But even at Pauley Pavilion, in the final week of the regular season, nothing came easily. Last Thursday night, UCLA trailed Stanford by two, with 2.5 seconds left in regulation, when Collison drove on Stanford's
Afterward, Hill admitted contact and credited Collison. But Collison told reporters he was fortunate and thought the call was a "make-up."
Two days later, the Bruins found themselves in a remarkably similar situation, down by one with 15.7 seconds left against Cal. As
"I've never been involved in back-to-back games like that," UCLA coach
UCLA came back from a 14-point deficit in the second half against Stanford, an 11-point deficit midway through the second half against Cal. The officiating can be questioned, but the Bruins' resilience cannot. Take Shipp, for example. Known as one of UCLA's best shooters, he has been in a staggering slump. To start February, he missed 20 straight three-pointers in a span of six games. Even now, he has made only 8 of his last 47 three-point attempts. But he still had the juice to take -- and make -- that circus shot.
"After this weekend, I feel like we have something special going on," Shipp said.
UCLA is the rare team that can win without a bundle of three-pointers. The Bruins are out-rebounding opponents by more than nine per game. Sometimes, their best offense seems to be a missed jump shot, followed by a strong rebound and easy put-back.
In the past two years, UCLA reached the Final Four on the shoulders of its perimeter players, only to be pushed aside by the Florida big men, namely
"Going to the Final Four two years in a row was nice," Collison said. "But we lost. I'm not going back to the Final Four just to lose again."