Less than two weeks before the NCAA tournament pairings will be set, UCLA’s senior leaders are acknowledging a powerful analogy:
Though this 10th-ranked Bruin team has a long way to go (beginning tonight at Pauley Pavilion against Oregon State) its style and maturity--and run of triumph in the wake of defeat--is strikingly evocative of the 1995 national title team.
“I think the atmosphere around here is a lot like two years ago--we’re playing good-looking ball,” said senior forward Charles O’Bannon, a sophomore starter on the title team, which won its final 13 games of the regular season. “No trash-talking, no taunting--we seem like men out there playing basketball instead of boys.”
Compared to last year’s juvenile spats and flash points, with this team on a five-game winning streak, the echoes are hard to ignore:
An O’Bannon carrying them, a senior at point guard in Cameron Dollar, an attack-defense mentality, a passion to avoid the first-round loss of the previous season, a sweep of Arizona and USC, finishing the home schedule against the Oregon schools. . . .
“There are a lot of things that compare to the ’95 team,” O’Bannon said, “but I’m hesitant. I don’t want to compare this team to that team--that would be pretty tough on us. That’s a tall billing to live up to.
"[But] we definitely have a team that’s capable of doing great things. For as long as we stay focused and continue to keep our heads, that opportunity is always there.”
Dollar said he was only recently struck with a feeling of deja vu, at least when you compare this year’s senior class of O’Bannon, Dollar and Bob Myers to the ’95 class of Ed O’Bannon, Tyus Edney and George Zidek.
“I was thinking, it’s me and Tyus, and Ed and Charles and kind of Bob and George, and how things just kind of are flowing along that same line,” Dollar said.
O’Bannon said the rambunctious reaction from the Pauley Pavilion crowd during Sunday’s victory over Duke was part of the warmth of this season.
“If anyone is a student of the game or just enjoys watching the game, you enjoy watching us play a lot more than you would have last year,” O’Bannon said. “Just by us sharing the ball, playing as a team, coming together on the court--just being more of a team.”
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
Conf. Overall Team W L W L UCLA 11 3 17 7 California 10 5 19 7 Arizona 9 5 17 7 USC 9 5 14 9 Stanford 9 6 17 7 Washington 8 6 15 8 Oregon 7 8 16 8 Washington State 4 10 12 14 Oregon State 3 12 7 17 Arizona State 2 12 10 16
Oregon State at UCLA
Oregon at USC
Washington State at Arizona
Washington at Arizona State