There is a lot of construction around Pauley Pavilion, with mud everywhere – it's been raining like Noah around here recently – and fences hiding an arena slowly being remodeled. Is that a metaphor? Read on.
• We'll get to the metaphor soon, but right now let me quickly relate how the day went. Left the house at a little after 5 in the morning, got to LAX a little after 4 in the afternoon. No, I wasn't driving. If you are in Spokane or Pullman you know how bad the weather is, so no need to inform you. But if you're not, well, the runway was closed off and on at Spokane International to plow the snow and that doesn't happen all that much. So we missed our morning flight to LA, the next two were already filled with Holiday Bowl-bound Husky fans, so we didn't get out until almost 2. Just in time for a snow shower to hit SeaTac and slow us down there. But all's well that ends in time for me to get here. ... Now back to that metaphor bull. Pauley is going through the first part of its changeover that's expected to be done in a couple years. The historic place has seen a lot of great basketball but the last couple years, great is not a word anyone would use with the way the Bruins have played. They are rebuilding, or remodeling if you prefer. The Bruins are young, with their best players sophomores, Tyler Honeycutt, who has a shoulder problem but is expected to play, and Reeves Nelson, a bruising 6-foot-8, 235-pound power forward. Then there is freshman Josh Smith, the 6-10, 305-pound post from Kentwood. He's had some solid games – averaging 10.3 points and 6.9 rebounds – but has disappeared in others. Sort of like the Bruins themselves. They showed up in Kansas and lost by one. They played BYU well, defeating the Cougars by seven. But they've also lost at home to Montana and homered UC Irvine en route to a one-point win less than a week ago. So which UCLA team will show up tonight? My guess is the good one. It is Pac-10 play after all. And Ben Howland has done pretty well against WSU (13-2). Remember, Howland got his start at Gonzaga as a grad assistant, so the WSU program is something he knows well. ... I've got to believe the Cougars will zone a lot more tonight than they did against Butler, if only because the Bruins have enough inside strength to scare them and not enough outside shooters to make you pay – now that I've written that, UCLA will make 12 3-pointers tonight, what do you bet. ... If I had to pick one Cougar that may have a breakout game, it would be DeAngelo Casto. Hawaii was not kind to Casto. But he should have every opportunity to explode around the hoop as UCLA has reverted back to a man team after playing a lot of zone last season. And Smith has a tendency to wander, losing track of his offensive man as he gives help. Casto should have a lot of offensive board opportunities.
• That's all for now. We're going to do our usual Twitter posts throughout the night, though the second half might be lighter as our print deadline looms quickly with the 8:06 tip. Check out vinceg55 and here at halftime. Until then ...