All the favor that UCLA had managed to build with a win over then-No. 6 Arizona in Tucson is now gone.
The Bruins followed up that win with an 18-point drubbing at the hands of Arizona State. But that was on the road against a much-improved team two days after an emotional win over a rival. A misstep could be overlooked.
A second one couldn’t, and that’s precisely what happened to the Bruins on Wednesday night as they lost to crosstown rival USC 75-71 in overtime. It drops UCLA to 5-3 in the Pac-12, leaving them two games behind conference leader Oregon, who lost at Stanford tonight.
Making matters worse?
UCLA needed to erase a 15 point deficit in the second half just to get the game into the extra period thanks to a 23-6 run at the end of the first half where the Bruins simply couldn’t get anything going. Coming off of last weekend’s games, a performance like that from the Bruins at home against a city rival is inexplicable. It’s unacceptable.
But it probably should have been predictable.
There may not be a team in the country that is more consistently inconsistent that the Bruins. There are times where they legitimately look like a Final Four team and there are times where they look destined for the NIT. And, frankly, this is probably what we should have expected of them from the beginning.
Kentucky’s run to the national title last season spoiled us into thinking that a talented group of incoming freshmen could easily make a run to the national title. But the real takeaway should have been just how special that group truly was. Their best freshmen were defenders and glue-guys first. The best scorer on the team was a sophomore. Their was leadership from a senior.
This UCLA team doesn’t have anyone that wants to play defense. Their three best freshmen are all wired to be centerpieces offensively. Their veterans are better than any of us expected they would be, but are not in the same league as Darius Miller when it comes to leadership.
You can’t compare this UCLA team to last year’s Kentucky team. You can’t compare anyone to last year’s Kentucky team. That group was special, not only from a talent perspective, but in the way everyone on that team came together.
The more apt comparison would be to this year’s Kentucky team, whose 14-6 record looks an awful lot like UCLA’s 16-6 record, and who may be the only team in the country that is more difficult to figure out than the Bruins.
Maybe we just need to accept that that’s who UCLA is.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.