As if trying to stop the nation's leading scorer and trying to move on in the NCAA Tournament wasn't enough to have on their minds this week, UCLA's players have something just as important to worry about.
Unlike most Division I schools, UCLA is on a quarter system. While most other colleges are currently on spring break, the Bruins are wrapping up their third quarter. Final exams are this week.
While several players spent the early part of the week staying up late and cramming for exams that were scheduled in Westwood, others will take their finals during predetermined times at the team hotel here in Oakland. It depends on what the professor has set up with the team's academic coordinator, who sets up the three-hour test times.
"You know how hard it is during finals to get your mind right," Howland said. "You're so exhausted from cramming -- people forget, these are legitimate student-athletes. The normal fan has no idea the amount of work these guys put in."
Especially at UCLA, where classes like golf, basket weaving and relaxation techniques aren't exactly on the curriculum.
"It's a tough time, but somehow you have to learn how to balance both," Cedric Bozeman said. "You just have to deal with it. Academics first, then basketball. It's pretty much study, then practice, then more studying."
I sincerely hope these guys and their coaches are taking academics seriously. 'Cause the last time UCLA won a national championship was in 1995, when Jim Harrick was coaching. Harrick, you remember, got the ziggy in 1996 after being accused of falsifying an expense report. He landed at Rhode Island for a couple years, then at Georgia. He and Jim Harrick Jr., his assistant coach, were fired from Georgia in 2004 after it was determined that the PE class Harrick Jr. was teaching did not meet Georgia's academic standards. Around 36-40% of the basketball players he recruited at UCLA graduated within six years.