Today marks the first weekend of 2006 without any college basketball. I'm in a little bit of withdrawal, but doing a little writing on UCLA and UH may help ease the symptoms.
As probably everybody who would visit this website knows, UCLA made the NCAA championship game last Monday night, before getting trounced by Florida. Expectations were high three years ago when Ben Howland took over the Bruin program, but getting to the Final Four this quickly certainly exceeded my expectations.
The University of Houston continued its slow, but steady, road back to national prominence, by making the NIT for the second straight year. This year, the Cougars dropped a heart-breaker in the NIT to Missouri State. During the season, UH defeated such highly regarded teams as LSU (who also made the NCAA Final Four) and Arizona (game-by-game log). The Cougars also put together a nice league record in Conference USA, but the proverbial "asterisk" must go with that record as several of the historically best C-USA teams (e.g., Louisville, Cincinnati) had left to go to the Big East.
In summary, things seem to be moving in the right direction for both UCLA and UH, albeit with UCLA further along. Houston has signed Coach Tom Penders to a new contract, which should provide the needed continuity for the Cougar program to continue improving. Now, we just need someone to convince Howland to drop his stated resistance to playing UH in a 40th anniversary commemoration of the Game of the Century in 2008.