Arizona v UCLA

UCLA moves into first-place tie in the Pac-12, upends Arizona

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After everything that UCLA has been through this season — the transfers, the head-scratching upsets, the talk of Ben Howland’s job security, the NCAA investigations — the Bruins now sit just two games away from a share of the Pac-12’s regular season title.

Thanks to a 74-69 win over No. 11 Arizona that wasn’t as close as the final score would indicate, UCLA has pulled into a tie with No. 24 Oregon for first place in the conference with just two games left. The Bruins will visit the two Washington school, while the Ducks have to go on the road to take on Colorado and Utah.

Think about that.

There were people that were wondering whether or not Howland would make it past the turn of the calendar after the Bruins lost to Cal Poly at home, blowing an 18 point lead. Unless Howland leaves on his own, I find it hard to believe that he won’t be coaching at UCLA next season.

It helps that the Bruins seem to be peaking at the right time.

After an ugly stretch where UCLA lost three out of four, the Bruins have won six of their last seven games, including their last four. That includes wins at Stanford and streaking USC, as well as this week’s homestand against the Arizona schools.

UCLA still has flaws, with the most obvious being their lack of attention to detail on the defensive end of the floor. But they’ve gotten better at getting stops, which is part of the reason they’re streaking.

Larry Drew II has morphed into one of the best point guards in the country. Shabazz Muhammad and Jordan Adams are taking turns as UCLA’s go-to scorer. Kyle Anderson has morphed into a glue-guy, an all-around contributor that cleans the glass and provides Howland with a second-playmaker. Throw in the mid-range jump-shooting of the Wear twins, and the Bruins have the makeup of a team with no middle-ground.

They have the talent to make a run to the second weekend, maybe farther.

But there wouldn’t be a soul that’s surprised if they get upended in the first round.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Akron reveals special bobble heads for LeBron, high school teammates

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When it comes to discussing some of the game of basketball’s best players, specifically those who went directly from high school to the NBA, a question that’s often asked is where said player would have attended college if forced (by rule) to do so. Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are among those who have been discussed in this manner, and in the case of LeBron he’s got connections to two programs within his home state of Ohio.

LeBron’s connected with the Ohio State program, which is outfitted by the Nike’s LeBron signature line, but there’s another program with an even closer connection. That would be Akron, which is led by head coach Keith Dambrot, and all he did was serve as LeBron’s high school coach at St. Vincent/St. Mary’s HS in Akron during the player’s freshman and sophomore years at the school. Also on those teams were two future Akron Zips in guard Dru Joyce and forward Romeo Travis.

Thursday the school announced that it would be honoring James, Joyce and Travis with bobble head dolls to be given out before Akron’s home games against Buffalo (February 16; Joyce’s bobble head), Bowling Green (February 26; Travis) and Ohio (March 1; James).

All three bobble head dolls are wearing Akron uniforms, which in the case of LeBron allows fans to think back and imagine what could have been. Season ticket holders guaranteed one bobble head per account (on each of the three giveaway days), with the first 750 fans in attendance to receive one as well.

NEW PODCAST: Indiana, Cal, troublesome trends and a weekend preview

California's Jabari Bird celebrates a score against Oregon in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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The gang is back together again for another episode of the NBCSports.com College Basketball Talk Podcast, with Rob Dauster hosting and Raphielle Johnson and Scott Phillips joining him. Today’s episode touched on big wins picked up Thursday night by California and Indiana, discussing the performances of those teams and also touching on their prospects down the line.

Also discussed were the recent performances of Iowa State, Providence and Texas A&M (which are you more worried about?), and some of the top games on this weekend’s schedule headlined by Kansas visiting Oklahoma. And if you’re a fan of seafood, you may take umbrage with some of Rob’s comments at the beginning of the podcast.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast on either iTunes or Stitcher, and there’s also a link to listen to this podcast below. Thanks for listening.