Maybe I just didn't have the heart to blog earlier about UCLA's disappointing loss to Cal in the Pac-10 tournament. Whereas during most of the season UCLA's defense was stifling, in this game Cal seemed to be able to score at will. When the Bruins came back to tie it in the second half I expected them to start pulling away, but they never did, and Cal simply dominated in the overtime. Then Cal lost to Oregon, which went on to win the tournament and could be on a serious roll going into March Madness.
Even having lost their last two games, looking pretty bad in both of them, the Bruins got a No. 2 seed in the West region, meaning they'll have to go through Kansas (or somebody who beats them). This can certainly be justified by their record (26-5), but the last two losses were troubling. In fact, all their losses were troubling. They seemed to lie down. They're vulnerable to a zone defense; when they encounter one they seem to forget how to penetrate to the paint and shoot or kick out.
I suspect UCLA in basketball is a little like Notre Dame in football; they end up higher in the national rankings than, perhaps, they truly deserve. The reputation from decades ago, all the way back to the Wooden era, seems to add a halo effect. Notre Dame this year, for example, had a mediocre-to-good football team, but every time they won a game they would be catapulted to higher than they deserved in the polls.
To be sure, UCLA did get to the final game last season, and Darren Collison most games (though not every game) turned out to be a good substitute for Jordan Farmar, who left after his junior year for the Lakers. But this year's team just hasn't been as consistent as I would like. And they don't seem to have mastered all the intangibles that result in a killer instinct when it's time to put a game away.
Naturally, I'm hoping for better things in the Big Dance.