After leaving the U.S. for Abu Dhabi, in 2009, my interest in college basketball waned.
As I noted in blog posts from recent years, while living in the UAE, it requires work to follow the college game from the other side of the world. Too many teams, too many games, too big a time gap between the Arabian Gulf and North America …
And, I now have decided, if your favorite two or three teams (yes, you can have more than one) are doing badly …
You might be detached from the NCAA Tournament only until one or more of “your” teams are competent again.
I am finding that to be the case, certainly.
My preferred college team, UCLA, is back and my interest for March Madness has returned. From France.
By way of comparison, I know someone back in California who has pretty much given up on sports over the past year. I believe the main reason behind it is … because his favorite team, the Los Angeles Lakers, stink. And have for four seasons now.
That makes following the NBA, in general, a chore. When your own team is awful. An exercise in self-flagellation. Why would someone want to follow that?
Exactly. You do not.
As we left for Abu Dhabi, the UCLA Bruins were about to embark on a 14-18 season that was only their second losing season since 1948. They were so bad, they lost even to Long Beach State (my alma mater) and Cal State Fullerton. Which should never happen.
That train wreck of a season touched off a slide into mediocrity or worse. Starting with 2009-10, UCLA lost at least nine games for eight successive seasons, twice had a losing record (their second and third over the previous six decades), three times missed the NCAA Tournament and never got past the Sweet Sixteen.
Last season, the Bruins were 15-17, and that perhaps would have been the end for coach Steve Alford, until he recruited both Lonzo Ball and T.J. Leaf, two of the best high school players in the country.
UCLA this time round is 29-4 and has victories at No. 1-ranked (at the time) Kentucky and Michigan, Ohio State, Arizona and Oregon.
The Bruins have been ranked as high as No. 2, are the nation’s highest-scoring team, in large part thanks to newcomers Ball and Leaf; and are seeded third in their March Madness region.
They play Kent State tomorrow.
And voila, I am something of a college hoops fan again.
The Bruins play at 10 p.m. (EDT), which is 3 a.m. (ack!) in France. But USC (yes, I am a college sports bigamist) plays at 3 (EDT), which is 8 p.m. in France. And the Trojans are 25-9.
It is not yet clear which channels on this cable package will be showing the NCAAs, but I will be watching, if at all possible. For the first time since time in nearly a decade.
Perhaps demonstrating that a lack of proximity can be overcome only by a successful season.