Beginning in November, college basketball players and coaches embarked on a journey they hoped would carry them to Indianapolis in April for the Final Four.
Some traditional powers seemed to start the trip with a flat right out of the driveway.
This week's question: What school got off to the most disappointing start in the season's first month?
GERRY AHERN'S RESPONSE
I have to go with UCLA. Though the expectations in Westwood were the lowest during Ben Howland's tenure – the Bruins began out of the top 25 for the first time in five years – few could have expected them to sink this precipitously, this fast. With Darren Collison, Josh Shipp and Alfred Aboya departed, UCLA suffered an opening-night, double-overtime loss to Cal State Fullerton at Pauley Pavilion. The defeat has become the precursor to a 2-4 start. Back-to-back wins over Cal State Bakersfield and Pepperdine gave way to a three-game losing skid. A 74-47 rout at the hands of Portland in the 76 Classic smarted. A two-point loss to No. 12 Butler gave Howland some hope that this team would at least fight. Then came a 79-68 loss to Long Beach State in the 76 Classic seventh-place game, the Bruins' first-ever loss to the 49ers. The program that went to three consecutive Final Fours from 2006-2008 can't shoot (26 percent from 3-point distance), doesn't scrap the way Howland expects and will likely spend NCAA tournament time in March at home mad. Next up is No. 1 Kansas on Sunday. Michael Roll, Malcolm Lee and Nikola Dragovic must step up quickly before this season turns historically bad.
JASON KING'S RESPONSE
A bit of a falloff was expected at Oklahoma after the loss of No. 1 overall draft pick Blake Griffin – but no one thought it'd be this big. Before defeating Nicholls State on Saturday, Jeff Capel's squad had lost three straight games to a trio of underwhelming opponents: Virginia Commonwealth, San Diego and Houston. All of a sudden a team that was ranked No. 17 as recently as a week ago will almost certainly fall out of the Associated Press Top 25 poll. Granted, it probably wasn't fair to expect too much from the Sooners. Griffin's brother, Taylor, moved on to the NBA, as well, and the graduation of Austin Johnson hurt. The Sooners took another hit during the offseason when projected starter Juan Pattillo was dismissed from the team. Oklahoma opened the season with two freshmen starters (Tommy Mason-Griffin and Tiny Gallon) and a preseason All-American (Willie Warren) who clearly hasn't adjusted to the leadership role Oklahoma needs him to fill. Warren needs to become more of a team player if the Sooners are to have any chance of regrouping and making the NCAA tournament.
Gerry Ahern and Jason King cover college basketball for Yahoo! Sports. Send Gerry a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast. Send Jason a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
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