Tag Archives: Ben Howland

Your Gut Instinct Might Be Wrong – Football Math

(Ed. Note: The following post was done by a new member of the family, ixrs. Please, welcome him to the show.)

You’re down by 14 in a football game with 3 minutes left in a football game. You just scored a touchdown. Your team sucks and only converts 2pt. conversions 40% of the time (most teams average around 45-55%) You should kick an extra point, right? Nope.

It’s mathematically more sound to go for 2.

Why is this relevant? Because fans often call for things that are detrimental to the team that they love as their first instinct. And likewise, everybody has been calling for Ben Howland’s head, and those that defend him are derisively called “Howlers” (at that other “Bruin” blog).

I’ve posted on reddit.com/r/ucla (this post, specifically) detailing why firing Howland is a bad idea. tl;dr -> Not firing him now will save 7 million dollars (not chump change, considering even Kentucky’s highest paid coach in the nation makes $4 million. The legendary Coach K of Duke makes 2.2) and this will help us HIRE A MUCH BETTER coach, or if the best case scenario occurs, Howland redeems himself.

You’d be naive to think otherwise. Money talks. Everything else walks.

Finally, football math is just interesting.

Math below:

Most teams have around a 40-55% chance at succeeding. No matter what happens, you’re hoping for another defensive stop and then another touchdown.

Let’s assume the worst case scenario — your team only gets a 40% conversion rate! Two 1 pt. conversions = a tie, so we’ll use that as a baseline. Now if you fail the first 2pt. conversion and succeed at the second, you’ll end up with 14pts., which is exactly the same result. Since that would be the exact same result, we can ignore it, because it’s the same as kicking two PATs.

Now lets compare the chances of losing versus the chances of winning, if one outweighs the other then we can figure out if the 2 pt. conversion is a better choice.

Now what are the odds of losing? 60% (failing the first 2pt. conv.) x 60% (failing the second 2pt. conv.) = 36% of losing.

Now if you make the first conversion, you win the game, because your second attempt is just a 1pt. attempt (so you’ll get 15pt. total, winning the game versus the 14 pt. deficit). What are the odds of making the 2pt. conversion? It’s a given- 40%.

Now 40% is a greater percentage than 36%, so your odds of winning outright outweigh your odds of losing outright.

Basically, you should go for the 2pt. attempt EVEN if your team is below 50% at 2pt. attempts! (As long as your team is above around 39% or so at 2pt. conversions.)


Heartbreak: UCLA Men’s Basketball loses nail-biter to Washington, 71-69

Ben Howland is still taking his playbook, going home

I want to cry.

I want to cry, not because we lost a close game. I want to cry because we lost this close game. Bruins across the nation may be getting tired of the phrase “turning the corner” but a win against one of the top-ranked teams in the Pac-12, in the loudest arena in the conference, while we’re just two games back from the top spot? That would have been turn-the-corner-esque.

Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

UCLA lost to U-Dub 71-69 on Thursday night. While the score may indicate that Washington survived a “scare,” that wasn’t the case at all — UCLA jumped on the Huskies early in the second half and, with minutes to go, our Bruins dropped a 10-point lead within a matter of seconds. The Huskies’ late surge definitely had something to do with it, but as the story of our season has been, we crumbled late. Shoddy decision-making, poor shot selection and really terrible defense down the stretch doomed us.

Because, with five minutes left to go in this contest, our Bruins held the Huskies (who average 77 points per game) to 53 points while we mounted 63 on their asses. While we managed to score six points in those last five minutes, we let the home team put up over 20 points to close the damn thing out.

The implications for the win would’ve been surreal. We would’ve probably gotten our first road win outside of Los Angeles (we beat uSc on the “road”), and arguably the most important one of the season. We would’ve put ourselves in position to have an outside (but not too outside) shot to take a lead in the Pac-12 standings. At the very least, we might’ve begun to make the case for a bid to the Dance this marge. Instead, here we are, at 12-10 overall and 5-5 in conference play.

The obvious narrative is that of Coach Ben Howland’s seat, and its current temperature. And while my heart, filled with emotion, even 12 hours after the fact, keeps saying, FIRE HIM! FIRE THAT MOTHERF***ER, my brain, cold and calculated, says we still need to have him for one more year. Despite the setbacks that Howland has suffered, it’s the 2012 recruiting class that’s worth keeping him around for, namely to keep us in contention for the top prospect in the nation, Shabazz Muhammad.

Things are going to get funky here in Westwood. I ask you, reader, one more time: Should Howland get fired?

POLL: Should Ben Howland get fired?

This question has been burning up inside the Bruin faithful the entire season. UCLA basketball coach Ben Howland, responsible for three straight Final Four appearances from 2006 to 2008, has led his team to something of a really terrible season. At 4-4 within the Pac-12, UCLA is two games back out of first place in the conference and is 7th in the Pac-12 standings. Their overall record isn’t too awesome either, at 11-9 with key losses to teams like Middle Tennessee State and Loyola Marymount. Those are hardly teams worthy of losing to.

Of course, the other side of the coin is this: Not many basketball coaches get to the Final Four, and fewer do it three times in a row. The level of discipline and the talent in recruiting is certainly a factor, and that usually is on the head coach. In Howland’s nine-year tenure as coach, UCLA has only missed the Big Dance twice. Last year, UCLA mustered up a 13-5 in-conference record (although they wound up losing the Pac-12 title to Oregon) and managed to get into the round of 32. Second round isn’t exactly something to gawk at, but it isn’t something to worth firing a coach over.

Still, UCLA has been bounced out of the second round of the NCAA tournament twice in the past three seasons, and if UCLA cannot make the cut into the tournament this year (and, if we’re honest, it doesn’t look very good), then it will have been the second time in three years that we don’t get to play in the postseason.

Personally? Howland needs — not should, needs — to stay for one more year. Some shoddy recruiting — which may very well fall on Howland’s head, mind you — has led to a huge dip in talent level this year, leaving this team unable to play defense unless they’re playing zone defense (which is built to mask deficiencies and avoid having one-on-one matchups exploited). But with the number one recruit in the nation, Shabazz Muhammad, strongly considering heading to Westwood, and with Kyle Anderson, the second-best recruit in the nation, already committed to UCLA, it’d be difficult to retain those two extremely-talented players with Ben Howland gone. And rightfully so — no player who wants to go one-and-done and into the NBA wants to hurt his draft status by playing for a losing team.

It seems irrational to fire Howland knowing that, with the commitment of Muhammad, the best recruiting class in the nation will be at his disposal. We know what Howland is capable of when he has serious talent on his squad, and if he’s truly “lost his touch,” then he’ll tank for sure next year.

But if he hasn’t? If this coach gets deep into the NCAA tournament and comes inches away from winning us another national championship? Then we’ll know how silly we were, and that Howland went through a slump.

So, yeah, one more year. But what say you? Should Howland get to stay one more year?

UCLA Basketball: Bruins lose to Oregon Ducks 75-68 after falling apart in the second half

Coach Ben Howland is taking his playbook and going home

The UCLA Bruins fell to the Oregon Ducks 75-68 for their ninth loss on the season, despite holding a 13-point lead over Oregon after the first half.

In case you don’t have time to do the math, that’s 51 second-half points for Oregon, pretty shocking considering that Oregon was shooting at just a 23 percent clip from the floor coming out of the locker room. UCLA came out of the gate dominating (shooting at a 53 percent rate in the first half while also outrebounding the Ducks significantly), but faltered, again, late in the game.

Oregon out-scored UCLA 51-31 in the second half, while shooting 50 percent from the floor. The difference between the beginning of the game and the end of the game is night and day.

The story? Crappy guard play all-around down the stretch (and, this should be a given by now, Josh Smith’s lethargic attitude on the court). The defense broke down possession after possession as it did against Oregon State a few days ago.

Free throws were an issue, too, and initially, they were the reason the game was within reach for the Ducks. Oregon took 32 charity shots on the game and converted 88 percent of those. UCLA? 10-21 from the stripe, a damning percentage that essentially kept Oregon in the game from minute number one.

The implications for this game are incredible. Coach Ben Howland was already on the hot seat and going 0-2 on the trip to Oregon, despite both games being extremely winnable down the stretch, has probably heated that seat up considerably.

So here’s how it stands now in terms of implications: UCLA is 10-9 on the season and, from the looks of things, there’s no way a tournament birth happens barring everyone else in the Pac-12 is discovered to be ineligible. Nothing is guaranteed, to be sure, but that would leave us on the outside looking in for the second time in three years. The talent level isn’t nearly what it should be and the defensive end looks irreparable.

Westwood has never looked so bleak.

UCLA Men’s Basketball: Bruins lose to Oregon State; where the **** is the defense?!

(Ed. Note: Sorry for the weird formatting and odd pictures, guys. This guy just downloaded a WordPress app on his phone that is workable, but not ideal. Forgive me.)

The Oregon State Beavers edged the UCLA Bruins 87-84 despite the Bruins shooting at a 57 percent clip and rallying late to bring the game close.

What the hell, you say. We shot 57 percent and lost?

I feel your pain, brother, and so does head honcho Ben Howland who said as much after the game. 

How did we do that?  The only way you can have an incredible offensive performance and still lose: Shoddy, scrambling, horrible defense.

Because, as you’ll note in the game’s final score, Oregon State put up 87 points while shooting 58 percent from the floor. The troubling, damning, ironic thing about it all? The Beavers dominated the paint while the Bruins played to shut down Oregon State’s vaunted (by Pac-12 standards) backcourt. So with big bodies like David and Travis Wear, and with a huge body like Josh Smith, trying to help play man on the gaurds, the inside penetration came from OSU’s bigs.

Of course, Howland had his Bruins play man all game, allowing the Beavers to spread our defense thin. In the game of basketball, the last thing you want to do is get spread out defensively.

The cries for zone defense are getting louder, and more so after this pathetic defensive “performance.” It’s easy to see why Howland’s reluctant — without the proper personnel and against the wrong team, the zone is prone to break down pretty consistently. However, it’s clear that we have some serious deficiencies on defense, and the zone defense masks poor defenders with constant, albeit quick and minimalistic, shifting.

Sadly, I’m going to assume Howland’s a little too prideful to abandon the beloved and once-wildly-successful man defense. 

We’ve got one more game coming up this weekend against Oregon. This loss has us scrambling with eight losses on the season, and 3-3 in the Pac-12. Another loss anytime soon, and we can kiss our NCAA tournament chances goodbye.

UCLA Men’s Basketball is on a roll without Reeves Nelson. No, seriously.

Joe Bruin

Joe Bruin, letting *you* know how to win basketball games.

UCLA Men’s Basketball team has struggled mightily for most of the season. They started the season 2-5 with five of those losses coming against competition like Loyola Marymount, Middle Tennessee State, Kansas, Michigan and Texas. Only two of those schools are ranked, sadly, and they were both double-digit losses. (In fact, all five of UCLA’s losses were by double digits.)

Of course, this all came during Reeves Nelson’s rift with head honcho Ben Howland. Nelson, arguably UCLA’s best player, seemed to be a hell of a troublemaker despite his talents. The dude was dismissed not too long ago and, guess what, the Bruins are back on their winning ways.

Following a figurative castration of UCI (a game in which the Bruins covered the 16-point spread and won 89-60), the Bruins are on a four-game winning streak that began when Nelson left the team before the game against Penn.

Aside from the win against Penn, all victories have come by double-digits, including an absolutely disgusting thrashing of UC–Davis by a score of 82-39.

What does this say? It says that this team may have had a lot of chemistry issues, especially with Reeves Nelson bogging down the ability of the coaches to build rapport with their players. Now that the apparent negativity in practices and on the court are gone, Ben Howland can get back to coaching a winning basketball program.

Just in time, too. After UCLA’s home game against Richmond, the Bruins start Pac-12 conference play, starting with a strong Stanford Cardinal team that’s had just one loss all season, which was against a ranked opponent in then-#5 Syracuse (and they only lost by six).

Let’s hope this streak continues. Go Bruins!

UCLA Basketball: Bruins blow lead in second half, Texas wins 69-59

Ben Howland realizes he's actually supposed to be coaching, since a fan in the stands told him to


After surmounting a hell of a lead over the Texas Longhorns to start — they opened up with a 15-6 lead off of 6-for-6 shooting — the Bruins managed to throw the game away in the second half, where, as soon as halftime was over, Texas unleashed hell on UCLA.

Big runs got UT the win, and our defense hasn’t looked more stagnant this season — and that’s saying something, considering we’ve been blown out a hell of a lot all season long.

The offense shouldn’t be let off the hook, though. Because despite starting hot, this team couldn’t buy a bucket late in the game — an 8-0 run from Texas sealed the deal in the waning moments of contest.

The implications? Well, we still suck. We’re 2-5 on the season — one of those wins came against a Division-II school — and the program is starting to look like it’ll take a while before any ship gets righted. Reeves Nelson is still a problem child — the dude sucked the entire first half and sat all of the second half — and our best players, well, can’t play very well.

This team lacks any form of legitimate, D-I talent, meaning we can kind of kiss this season goodbye. From the looks of it, not only is the squad lethargic, but it doesn’t play basketball correctly. It’s a messy, frustrating bunch to watch.

Regardless, UCLA plays Penn next week, a team that isn’t very good either, but one that our beloved Bruins may lose to just because they’re not that great either.

We’ve got five games till Pac-12 basketball begins. Let’s see if we can get some momentum and not miss out on March Madness, OK, Coach Howland?