USC's Kevin O'Neill speaks up for UCLA

USC coach Kevin O'Neill is confused why crosstown rival UCLA isn't ranked in the national polls this week -- especially after the Bruins beat Arizona by 22 points on Saturday and pulled into a tie with the Wildcats atop the Pac-10.

"All I hear about is BYU and St. John's every time I turn on the TV. BYU, St. John’s. BYU, St. John’s. UCLA beat 'em both," O'Neill said.

"Our league just doesn't get the credit for whatever reason. Maybe it's because we live in a different country. You know, we're three hours behind everybody. But to me, they're a top-15, -16 team. I think they've really come along and become a really, really good basketball team."

O'Neill noted that since UCLA lost at USC on Jan. 9, the Bruins have won 12 of their past 14 games, and that coach Ben Howland and his staff have seen freshman center Joshua Smith continually improve.

"I always hear people joking he's Oliver Miller. He's much more skilled than Oliver Miller.

"I think the kid's really, really a good player. He's got a big-time upside. He may end up being the best player out of this league at the next level no matter what."

Howland indicated he wasn't really focused on whether his team was ranked.

"I’m not even thinking about it, so it’s nice Kevin would say that," Howland said. "I don’t know what to say. All I know is I know our league is very good."

In the final week of the regular season, UCLA goes on a difficult road trip to the Washington schools with hopes they can keep pace with Arizona. The win against the Wildcats on Saturday has buoyed those hopes.

"That was our best game of the year," Howland said. "We played very good defense for 40 minutes, and we did a good job of executing offensively."