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Let's not get carried away!

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You gotta love the media. They are always looking for the angle, always looking stir things up and always looking to sensationalize.

So as I read this article in LA Times left me scratching my head. Saturday's loss to UCLA, at least in my eyes, did little to close the gap between thee two schools when it comes to basketball. No I am not saying things are looking up but we still have a very long way to go and as I have said before you've got to state somewhere.

If it had been shirts versus skins, there would have been long stretches during the USC-UCLA basketball game Saturday when you wouldn't have known which team played for the NCAA title last season and which team lost 13 games.

USC was that athletic, that good.

But UCLA won, even with second-leading scorer Josh Shipp out because of a hamstring injury and key players effectively taken out of the game for significant stretches because of foul trouble and tough USC defense.

Therein lies the difference that remains between the Bruins and Trojans in a fast-closing rivalry.

There's more where that came from.

There isn't much the Trojans can do about Bruins history, or the long-standing perception that UCLA hoops rule in LA. But USC has been closing the gap on the court, where it counts most. Sooner, rather than later, the weight of these games will be rippling across the country, not dying in the Mojave Desert.

Saturday there appeared to be little in the way of talent or fight separating the teams. USC led most of the way. UCLA rallied from 10 down to take a six-point lead with less than a minute to play, but the Bruins found themselves down one with 23 seconds left.

The Bruins, of course, know the Trojans are coming.

USC coach Tim Floyd took over a faltering program and turned it around in one season. He willed a rag-tag team to a 17-13 mark last year and has the Trojans off to a 13-5 start this year. Many, including UCLA coach Ben Howland, are calling USC an NCAA Tournament team.

"This was a great show of character for us, against a team that will be in the tournament, no doubt," Howland said after the game, sounding much like USC football coach Pete Carroll talking about UCLA's football team. That is, they may not be crazy about admitting it, but publicly, the top-dog coaches are obligated to embrace the competitiveness.

You gotta love the fire in their belly!
Uh, easy there, its only one game. Rivalry games tend get teams to rise to the occasion. Remember Dec. 2nd? SC pinned their ears back for most of this game but fell down the stretch, there is some improvement and this team is more athletic than before but until we consistently win games of this magnitude we need to take it easy with all the talk of closing the gap and just enjoy some of our fledgling success. I realize how easy it is to fall prey to this type of buzz but we need to balance it with some reality.

I admit that I am no expert on basketball but it is obvious that we are a little bit better than we have been in the past but we need to be consistent on the court if others are to take us seriously. Yes, even Ben Howland gave us props but what else did you expect him to say, that we suck? Howland is smarter than that but he is also smart enough to take notice that we are getting better but lets be honest and realize that we are taking baby steps.

Things will get better and this team will feel itself out and hopefully bring it all together. Something though keeps nagging at me; let me preface it this way, no team can EVER rest on its laurels. You need to continually produce to always be in the discussion. Both schools have had their own dry patches in their respective strengths so when both the above articles bring up the UCLA tradition, which is well storied, I ask myself "what does that have to do with anything?" I'm more into the here and now. It's not like any of the old Bruin greats have anything to do with their current run of success, It's a great story but it has no relevance on today's game. Outside of last years loss to Florida and their title win in 95' its not like UCLA has been the standard bearer in hoops and while I am no Coach K fan it is hard to argue that he hasn't always been in the mix and set the bar pretty high. UCLA is back to national prominence and that's great for them and the Pac 10 as a whole as some continue to fight the villainous East Coast Bias. Winning cures all ills and we have yet to do it consistently.

I don't want to throw cold water on the party but its articles like this that set the bar at unrealistic levels and when SC goes through a rough patch as they may well do how would you feel then? It is better to ground yourself in humility than to believe all the hype. Lets get a few more quality wins under our belt and sweep UCLA for a couple of years before we go of the deep end about a game that we DIDN'T win. One that we should have...Period!