The Morning After Recap: Wednesday, February 29

... the safe, smart AM read for college basketball fans

***

The tell-all UCLA basketball piece that we had been eagerly awaiting from Sports Illustrated investigative reporter George Dohrmann has finally been unveiled. But instead of rampant drug problems or years of illegal recruiting tactics, the tone is much different than we initially expected.

The focus is instead directed mainly at head coach Ben Howland's poor demeanor and complete inability to control his own program. The SI article has still yet to hit the web (UPDATE: LINK), but Bruins Nation snagged a few excerpts from SI's iPad app which was released hours ago.

On Howland himself:

Howland was neither a nurturer nor a player's coach. Other than practice and games, he had little contact with his athletes, according to players.

Each of the players who spoke to SI said they found Howland socially awkward and disapproved of the verbal abuse they say he directed at his staff, the student managers, and the weakest players. One player said if he saw Howland waiting for the elevator he would take the stairs.

On the '08 squad:

When practices began in October (2008) however, it was quickly apparent that while the Baby Bruins' level of talent was undeniable, their levels of dedication varied....Holiday and Lee were serious and professional; they had fun off the court but never went too far. Anderson, Gordon, and Morgan, by contrast took advantage of the freedom...They partied. The trio regularly drank alcohol and smoked marijuana, sometimes before practice, according to multiple teammates.

On Reeves Nelson:

Howland looked the other way. One team member says he asked Howland after a practice why he wasn't punishing Nelson, to which he said Howland resounded, "He's producing."

Damning, to be sure. Not exactly a good day to be a UCLA basketball fan. Or player. Or coach.

A full recap of the previous night's action after the jump...

The Local Guys

* Shabazz Napier on looking to the Big East tourney: "We have about eight guys from that team. Eight guys who know what it took to win the championship. It lies on defense. There's not enough communication." (Hartford Courant)

* Ryan Kelly scored a career-high 23 in Duke's tune-up game before Saturday's showdown with UNC (Charlotte Observer)

* Brad Stevens knows Butler isn't dead yet:"There's no doubt we're better than we were two months ago, three months ago, even a month ago. Now the question is: Are you good enough to keep winning?" (Indianapolis Star)

The Blogosphere

* Jordan Taylor on his coach getting T'd up: "It's just more of an indirect way of him telling us to get it going. It helped a little bit to jump start us, but we have to do a better job of not letting it get to that point." (Bucky's 5th Quarter)

* Vandy went to the charity stripe 15 more times than Billy Donovan's Gators in another Florida road letdown (Anchor Of Gold)

* Michigan State's chances at an outright Big Ten title will come down to senior day on Sunday (The Only Colors)

Who Won It Best

Indiana - We can now add Michigan State to the list of top programs that have entered Assembly Hall this season and left with a crushing loss. Along with the Spartans, the Hoosiers have taken down Kentucky, Ohio State, Michigan, Butler, and Illinois at home this year alone, and will play host to Purdue in the season finale on Sunday. Even though Tom Crean's group appears to play significantly worse on the road, a quick road trip to Bloomington doesn't sound quite as appealing as it did two years ago.

Who Lost it Worst

Connecticut - The Huskies desperately needed a win against a lowly Providence team last night to stay in the at-large mix. And usually when you hold an opponent to 38.1% shooting and only give the ball away seven times, a victory is not far off. But of course, that's not how things worked out for this wildly-inconsistent UConn squad on Tuesday, as the Friars pulled out a 72-70 win and effectively tossed a few more heaps of dirt on the defending champs' frustrating season. Now 7-10 in the conference play, the Huskies are now hoping for a miracle in the Big East tournament next week.

MVP

Draymond Green-Michigan State - Even in a losing effort, Green played at arguably his highest level all season on Tuesday. The hands-down pick for Big Ten player of the year totaled 29 points, eight rebounds, and a pair of assists, and was literally the only good thing Michigan State had going for it all night. Green's performance would have definitely made up some ground on Thomas Robinson and Anthony Davis on the national scene had the Spartans pulled out a victory, but now, with only one game left on the schedule it's probably too little too late.

By The Numbers

3:38 - Amount of time it took for UConn to blow a 14-point second half lead on Providence.

This Really Happened

Note to self: Do not attempt to draw a charge on Arkansas' Brandon Mitchell

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