Those of us who have followed UCLA basketball since the days of John Wooden -- I remember going to the first game then-Lew Alcindor, later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played as a freshman, when there was a separate freshman team, and the freshmen played the varsity in a fun exhibition. That year the freshmen beat the varsity and all of us looked on in awe. Since then there have been a few lulls and mediocre years -- meaning not going very far into March Madness -- but we all thought Ben Howland had brought back the glory days with three straight Final Four visits (though no national championships.
But this year's team turns out to be one of the down years, as Saturday's game with Oregon showed yet again. Yes, yes. Reeves Nelson, the tough freshman who is going to be a force and sometimes is already, was out with an eye injury. And after trailing badly the Bruins came back and even tied the game -- but eventually lost. Inconsistent defense, a listless offense and bad foul shooting. I do think a foundation is being laid for next year. But it seems very strange to try to get solace from good efforts and moral victories. Ah, well. Next year should be better.