Coach Ben Howland may have won a Pac-10 tournament in the comfort of his own backyard with UCLA in 2008, but he has no problem with the event moving to Las Vegas this season.
“I think it’s a great move,” Howland said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. “I couldn’t be happier.”
Howland said the tournament – which will be played at MGM’s Grand Garden Arena – reminded him of taking his Pittsburgh teams to play the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
“People want to go to Vegas,” he said. “Vegas has nightlife and all that things that so many adults enjoy. It’s going to be happening. Three years from now, this ticket in this league will be one of the most difficult tickets to get. You have to have it at the same place every year. People are going every year. They can’t wait to go. It’s so much fun.”
The No. 21 Bruins (23-8, 13-5 Pac-12) will play in the quarterfinals on Thursday at noon. They await the winner of Wednesday’s opening round game between No. 8 seed Stanford and No. 9 seed Arizona State.
Other notes from Howland’s press conference:
– Howland was “disappointed, miffed, stunned, hurt, sad, stunned (again)” and “miffed (again)” that freshman guard Jordan Adams was not selected to the Pac-12′s All-Freshman team, which was announced Monday. Adams is eighth on the conference’s scoring list and third in steals. Howland also suggested that some conference coaches cast their all-conference ballots before the end of the regular season, something he doesn’t “relate” to.
“I thought that was an injustice,” Howland said.
– UCLA pushed Wednesday’s practice back in order to know who it will play by the time it starts working on defense. Arizona State and Stanford tipoff at noon. Howland also acknowledged that either team will be playing with heightened intensity because each will be trying to play its way into the NCAA Tournament field by winning the conference tournament.
– Despite potentially playing three games in three days, Howland does not plan on changing his substitution pattens. UCLA has just eight scholarship players on its roster.
“We hope it becomes three games in three nights but we have to get past our first opponent,” Howland said. “We’re just trying to win the next game, whatever it is. I’m going to treat it how I would any other game.”
– Howland admitted to practicing with minimal contact after redshirt junior forward Travis Wear injured his right ankle in practice last month. Howland said that the lack of contact could have contributed to the team’s 73-61 letdown at Washington State last week.
“I was very hesitant and that really weakens you,” he said. “You play how you practice. We had our best practice of 2013 on Friday in Seattle and that directly correlated to how we played the next day with the toughness that is necessary to win to beat a team on their home floor. That being said, there are no more free days of practice. If someone gets hurt, someone else is going to play. We were fortunate to get through a few of those games where I was doing that.”
– Although the tournament will be played in the same building as a casino, Howland isn’t concerned with distractions.”We’re very structured with our time,” he said. “Our guys aren’t going to be running around hanging out in casinos or anything. We’re on a business trip. For our fans and the families of the players, it will be great. If you’re 21, you can pull a lever. If you’re not, you can’t.”
Compiled by Sam Strong, Bruin Sports senior staff, with reports from Ryan Menezes, Bruin Sports senior staff.