Ben Howland's UCLA Bruins Are a Mess and Their Best Player Was Just Suspended

College basketball observers are watching Ben Howland’s UCLA Bruins closely this season. After three straight Final Fours from 2006-2008, the Bruins are just 2-2 in the tournament since (and missed it completely in 2009). West Coast recruits are shunning Howland. He’s whiffed nationally, too. So Howland went out and got an AAU coach to add to his staff and help with recruiting. Those moves come with some risk – I know of at least two college basketball reporters sniffing around the program.

UCLA’s most talented player, Josh Smith, can’t control his weight. He was a non-factor in an embarrassing season-opening loss to Loyola Marymount. It gets worse – Howland has been feuding with his best scorer, Reeves Nelson. The two had a meeting this week, and Monday night, Howland suspended Nelson indefinitely for “conduct unbecoming of the team.” From the LA Times:

The 6-foot-8 junior seemed increasingly frustrated as the Bruins’ 69-58 defeat progressed, tuning out coaches during timeout huddles and appearing irked that he was not a focal point of the offense.

The Bruins leave next week for Maui. Will Nelson be with the team?

Man, that UCLA athletic department is FUBAR. Rick Neuheisel’s football team is a disaster, and now Howland’s program is a mess. You have to wonder: How long before that sick basketball recruiting class begins to have second thoughts?

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