UCLA basketball has ridden its ten-game winning streak back into the AP poll, returning to No. 25 on Monday.
The Bruins needed to build a lot of goodwill after the team struggled out of the gate. Ranked No. 13 to start the season, UCLA’s win over Indiana State and the debut of freshman phenom Shabazz Muhammad convinced voters they were good enough for No. 11 in the polls.
That was short-lived, however, after UCLA dropped two of its next three games. Although Georgetown looks like a team worth losing to, the Bruins struggled against a lowly Georgia squad and lost to Cal Poly that upcoming weekend, a loss that many considered to be rock bottom in coach Ben Howland’s tenure.
UCLA would lose just once more from there up to this point to then-23rd-ranked San Diego State and after that, UCLA has looked much-improved in their ten-game streak which includes wins over struggling Texas, a top-10 Missouri squad and Pac-12 contender Colorado.
The Bruins’ ranking in the top-25 doesn’t matter, though. While it’s an affirmation that the Bruins have begun their trek towards earning the distinction of national contenders, this is a long season and, if the Bruins want to stay in the polls, they’re going to have to continue to win games, especially in a far-more-competitive Pac-12 conference which sees Oregon, Arizona State and Arizona as nearly-surefire tournament teams along with UCLA, all while Colorado hangs around as a bubble team (considering their losses have been to teams with no more than three losses).
Sure, a top-25 ranking is good but considering the Bruins were pegged as a top-15 team preseason, fans need to keep themselves grounded. There’s clear progress on this team and those that stood rational — reminding us that this UCLA team is freshmen-heavy and that the squad needed some time to grow — have come out of the early-season slump smelling like roses.
But that doesn’t mean there’s need to go crazy just yet. Being ranked in the top-25 isn’t a big deal for this squad and, hopefully, fans don’t take it as such either.