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Let the Mind Games Begin

Will this tournament be another Bruin flameout or more sweet salvation for Lavin?

March 12, 2001|BILL PLASCHKE

Five years of sweating through springs with the UCLA basketball team does things to a person.

You see those four big letters pop up in a NCAA tournament bracket, you start hearing voices.

Lavin Madness.

That's it. Season over. Coach is cooked.

Season over?

Yep, UCLA is playing Hofstra in the first round.


So Hofstra is Detroit Mercy without the mercy. Eighteen consecutive victories, best streak in the country. Four senior starters who have won 45 of their last 52 games.

But they don't play schools, they play ski resorts--Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine.

Doesn't matter. The Bruins think Hofstra is a German beer. They are going to be staggered to learn otherwise.

I'm sure Steve Lavin will tell them the university is in . . . where's it at, anyway?

Doesn't matter. The Pride will play smart, it will play defense, it is perfect for the first-round upset.

They're called the Pride?

Yeah, as in, "Pride goeth before destruction."

Stop quoting proverbs.

It's fresher than quotes from Lavin.

Your argument about Hofstra would make total sense, but for one thing.

Which is?

UCLA has already gotten that first-round slapstick out of its system.

What do you mean?

The loss to Washington on Saturday? The loss to the worst Pacific 10 Conference team in several years? One of their worst conference losses ever?

Yeah, I especially loved it when Lavin called that timeout that enabled Washington to call the winning play.

That was their first-round loss. Just a week early.


Seriously. Under Lavin, the Bruins run fast only when chased. They fight only when hit first. They sweat only when somebody sneaks in behind them and turns the heat up.

And you're saying . . .

I'm saying they need failure to remind them of the importance of success. Their locker room talks don't occur in the locker room, but on the court.

So you think the Washington humiliation was the pep talk they needed to enable them to win a first-round game they should win.

Exactly. All the experts will pick Hofstra. Office pools will be overflowing with Hofstra. The Bruins are going to be chased all the way to Greensboro, where they will bury Jimmy Hofstra.

You forget two years ago.

I told you, this is not about Detroit Mercy.

I'm talking about what happened before Detroit Mercy. In their last game of the 1998-99 regular season, the Bruins were blown out by 17 points at Arizona. They never regrouped.

That team didn't have the leadership of Earl Watson.

Excuse me, but isn't Watson complaining that nobody is listening to him?

That team didn't have the shooting of Jason Kapono.

Who publicly griped that he's not getting enough shots?

That team definitely didn't have a bruising power forward like Matt Barnes.

Agreed. But Hofstra has one just like him, a 6-foot-7 Brooklyn guy named Roberto Gittens who was the MVP of the America East tournament.

That's not a conference, it's a discount airline, and they beat Delaware in the title game. Remember, this is a UCLA team that won at Stanford the same week Lavin's approval rating had reached an all-time low.

That Stanford win was the worst thing that could have happened to this program.

Was not

Was too.

Lavin is doing the best coaching job of his career. This is his most special team. He's going back to the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in five years.

Oh, and next you're going to say UCLA will be playing Georgia and Coach Jim Harrick in the most delicious of all Sweet 16 games.

Never happen. Although it will be interesting to have Harrick in the same building playing on the same day as UCLA for the first time since they parted ways in 1996, Georgia won't get past Missouri in the first round.

So you're assuming UCLA will not only beat Hofstra, but also beat Ohio State or Utah State in the second round?

It will be Ohio State. And yes, the Bruins will beat the Buckeyes, who are too young for the madness. This will set up a Sweet 16 match with Duke, which will give this endless Bruin season its punctuation mark.

By the way, Hofstra is in Long Island.

As in, they'll go down as easy as iced tea.


How did Pete Dalis get into my head?

I'm hiding from Harrick.


Bill Plaschke can be reached at his e-mail address:

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