Commentary

What's wrong with UCLA?

The Bruins have struggled beyond all expectations. Can they turn it around?

Updated: December 29, 2011, 1:51 PM ET
By John Gasaway | Special to ESPN Insider
Ben HowlandChris Chambers/Getty ImagesBen Howland's Bruins are looking for answers as conference play approaches.

To be honest, I'm not sure why UCLA was ranked in the top 20 in the preseason in both major polls. You'd have to ask the pollsters about that. Apparently they saw something in the Bruins that other observers did not.

So in one sense, the fact that Ben Howland's team is nowhere to be seen in the polls as the Bruins open Pac-12 play isn't really a surprise, or at least it shouldn't be. But the route UCLA has traveled to reach this particular destination is one that even the most astute observer could never have foreseen. In a year when its arena, Pauley Pavilion, is unavailable as it undergoes major renovations, Howland's homeless team is 7-5. Unless something changes abruptly and dramatically, this team isn't going to make the NCAA tournament. It most likely will finish somewhere around .500 in Pac-12 play in a season when the conference, like the Bruins, is failing to live up to expectations.

How did this happen? And what happens next?