The Arizona Wildcats will be coming into the UCLA Bruins’ newly renovated home, Pauley Pavilion, seeking retribution of an earlier season loss to the Bruins at home. This game between the Bruins and the Wildcats is significant with the Oregon Ducks on the ropes in first place at 12-4; a win by either team could forge the way for their team to go on to win the PAC-12 regular season conference title. A win by the Bruins or the Wildcats could be a catalyst game that could provide momentum and the confidence to go on to win the PAC-12 Tournament title helping them gain a higher NCAA tournament seeding are all at state in this game.
There is another significance that should be a point of interest for the young Bruins and their coach Ben Howland. One of the ten NCAA national championship banners will come to life right in front of their eyes as the 1972 championship team will be honored for the part of men’s college basketball they staked and dominated going 30-0 winning the NCAA national championship. Though it has been a little over forty years this Bruin team was also young once and when it was their time show the world what they were made of a championship this was their response. They were the best and they left their footprint mark in the sands of time that will never wash away.
There will be no Coach Wooden or legendary track coach /basketball trainer Elvin C. “Ducky” Drake at the celebration but they will be in the hearts of all true Bruins especially their family and their boys; the players, they loved. The late great athletic director J.D. Morgan and a few others players will be missing on their day of celebration. Vince Carson passed away Tommy Curtis has been away from the area for years. Two Starters, Henry Bibby and Larry Farmer will be missing in action because they have Memphis Grizzlies and North Carolina State business to attend to respectively.
The most unsung Bruin and all around great player, Larry Hollyfield is battling to be there to celebrate with his teammates after a recent surgery. Swen Nater, Bill Walton’s backup who Walton called the second best center in the country may attend. Coach Gary Cunningham and Coach Frank Arnold were Wooden’s assistants and they will be in attendance. In addition, Naismith Hall of Famers Bill Walton, Jamaal Wilkes will be in attendance, as well as, teammates Greg Lee, Gary Franklin, Bob Webb, Marvin Vitatoe, Jon Chapman and Andy Hill. Les Friedman the team manager will be there.
The current Bruin team is led by freshmen sensations, Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams is structured much like the 1972 Bruin team. Both teams have three first year players who are starters. Because of the must play on the freshmen team NCAA rule of the past Bill Walton, Keith /Jamaal Wilkes and Greg Lee played their first varsity season as sophomores. Both teams have senior leadership at guard, Larry Drew II on the 2012-13 team and senior Henry Bibby during the 1971-72 season. The 1972 Bruins had a great role player in junior Larry Farmer while the guy holding down that position currently is junior Travis Wear.
Both teams came into their respective season with high expectations. The current Bruins started slow earlier in the season. The young Bruins of old knew the goal and they were of single mind as Coach John Wooden guided them close enough to their potential to go undefeated on the way to an NCAA national championship title.
Despite the current UCLA Bruins’ earlier setbacks they are positioned and seem ready to take on any and all challenges. Now that Shabazz, Anderson and Adams are all playing well at the same time, the possibilities for how far the team can go, starts now.
The last time the Bruins lost in Pauley Pavilion was against their cross town rivals the USC Trojans. That night was also a celebration of Bruin lore of the past with the retiring of Naismith Hall of Famer Reggie Miller’s jersey. No not USC say it ain’t so, say the Bruin faithful.
This time the young UCLA Bruins say they are ready for the challenges that lie ahead. Once again UCLA basketball tradition will be on display.
The current Bruins’ first step is to protect their home court against a revenge driven Arizona Wildcats team that will, for the moment protect their school’s great tradition that set the standard of excellence for college basketball. Once the Bruins have completed step one everything else for the UCLA Bruins is theirs for the taking . . . , history is on their side.