After going undefeated at home for the first time in 32 years, what can the UCLA men’s basketball team do for an encore?
For one thing, there are the season’s most important games, most notably the NCAA Tournament, in March.
Then there’s next season, when the arrival of 6-foot-9 Kevin Love is being anticipated like the debuts of Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton in the past.
Love, who is rated the nation’s No. 1 high school center, is likely to start at power forward for the Bruins so that vastly improved Lorenzo Mata can continue at center. That decision would result in Luc Richard Mbah a Moute moving to small forward and Josh Shipp becoming a guard.
But that’s next season. In this one, UCLA has a 25-3 record following wins over California and Stanford last week. The Bruins are 14-2 in the Pac-10 and have clinched a share of first place entering games last weekend at Washington State and Washington.
Then comes the Pac-10 tournament at Staples Center and the NCAA Tournament.
UCLA went 16-0 in Pauley Pavilion this season and has a current home winning streak of 20 games.
“It’s great to see the place filled again,” legendary coach John Wooden told the sellout crowd at the Stanford game during a halftime ceremony honoring his 1967 undefeated national champions.
“The past teams established the tradition and we have to take care of it,” said UCLA guard Arron Afflalo.
It has been widely speculated that Afflalo will leave for the NBA rather than return for his senior season, but he isn’t saying much about it.
The crowd at the Stanford game chanted “one more year.”
Afterward, Afflalo said: “I heard them but I’m just living in the moment.”
Coach Ben Howland emphasizes defense and rebounding. Asked how UCLA was able to avenge its loss at Stanford, he replied: “We were out-rebounded by 12 at Stanford and this time they had only five offensive rebounds. We blocked out.”