Earlier this week, Steve Alford said plainly that UCLA is not ready to beat a top-10 team in mid-December. So how about an unranked team in late December?
After falling to then-No. 9 Gonzaga and No. 1 Kentucky earlier this month, the Bruins suffered their third straight loss on Sunday — a 56-50 loss at Alabama that featured yet another ugly start.
UCLA opened scoring with an alley-oop from Tony Parker to Norman Powell, but not much went well after that. The Crimson Tide went on a 20-3 run that finally ended nearly 15 minutes into the game, and took a 12-point lead into the break. Alabama guard Ricky Tarrant matched the Bruins on his own by scoring 17 points in the first half, and finished with a season-high 24 on 7 of 17 shooting. He also made 8 of 10 free throws, and had an assist and two steals. Continue reading →
UCLA forward Wanaah Bail has been ruled academically ineligible and will sit out the remainder of the season, leaving an already thin Bruins roster with just two frontcourt reserves.
After an injury-riddled freshman year, Bail was averaging 1.5 points and 2.6 rebounds in nine minutes per game. He made 11 appearances as a sophomore, but saw his usage dwindle consistently: after playing a career-high 17 minutes in UCLA’s season opener, Bail’s minutes dropped to 15, 12 and 10 in the next three games.
He never played more than eight after Thanksgiving, and was a healthy scratch in the Bruins’ 87-74 loss to then-No. 9 Gonzaga on Dec. 13. He ended his season by playing eight minutes in an 83-44 blowout loss to No. 1 Kentucky.
Last week, No. 8 Gonzaga already showed how just how far UCLA is from being one of the country’s elite teams, controlling the game the entire night at Pauley Pavilion and easily snuffing every semblance of a Bruin run. So what’s going to happen when Steve Alford’s squad takes on the top-ranked Wildcats, whose rotation consists almost entirely of former McDonald’s All-Americans? A UCLA win would require a number of things to break right. (An act of God wouldn’t hurt either.)
Here are a few things to keep an eye on today.
1. Can UCLA handle Kentucky’s assembly line of big men? The Bruins have outrebounded nearly every team they’ve faced this season, but their loss against Gonzaga finally pitted them against an opponent that could toss superior size their way. Against 7-foot-1 Przemek Karnowski and 6-foot-10 Domantas Sabonis, UCLA gave up a 34-30 edge on the glass and struggled to convert second-chance opportunities. It also allowed 65 percent shooting inside the arc, with Sabonis missing just one of his five field goal attempts.
The Wildcats have the biggest rotation in the country, starting with seven-footers Willie Cauley-Stein and Dakari Johnson. Continue reading →
After UCLA’s 87-74 loss to No. 9 Gonzaga on Saturday, head coach Steve Alford said he was more pleased with the Bruins’ performance than he had been after Wednesday’s win against UC Riverside. UCLA staged a few comeback attempts, but never led against the Bulldogs — and tied for just 1:17.
» From Mark Whicker’s column: “UCLA seems less of a national factor than it has been in a long time, on any level, including the bright, blue and empty seats in many regions of the new Pauley, and the taken-for-granted nature of a loss like this.”
UCLA hosts No. 9 Gonzaga tonight at 7:05 p.m., the first part of a tough five-game stretch that will tell everyone a lot more about what type of team Steve Alford has on his hands.
Kenpom.com currently projects the Bruins losing all five: to the Bulldogs (44% win probability), No. 1 Kentucky (12%), Alabama (44%), Colorado (44%) and Utah (27%). The latter four games are all away from Pauley Pavilion.
For fans of numerical repetition — and of basketball, I suppose — the Pac-12 has the sale for you.
The conference announced today that tickets for the Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament at MGM Grand Garden Arena will go on sale for $12 on Friday, Dec. 12. A limited number of those will be available for 12 hours (duh!) starting from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. PT., or as long as the supply lasts.
You can buy these at Ticketmaster using the promo code PAC1212. These are per-session tickets, which means you’ll need to buy six if you want to watch every single game. All-tournament passes also go on sale at 10 a.m. tomorrow.
The Las Vegas tournament starts on March 11 and ends March 14. The same deal is available for Pac-12 women’s basketball, which will hold its competition at Seattle’s Key Arena on March 5-8.
For the second straight game at Pauley Pavilion, UCLA started slow. Against a UC Riverside squad picked to finish last in the Big West, the Bruins trailed for nearly the entire first half before eventually beating the Highlanders, 77-66.
Head coach Steve Alford attributed that to a lack of toughness, including the discipline to block out and communicate on defense.
“If we don’t develop this toughness, we’re always going to be the kind of team we are right now,” he said.
UCLA will start a home-and-home series against Kentucky next season, it announced this morning, ensuring that the Bruins will face college basketball’s most dominant team at least three times by the end of 2016.
The No. 1 Wildcats are already slated to play against UCLA on Dec. 20 at the United Center, part of the inaugural CBS Sports Classic. Now, Kentucky will also visit Pauley Pavilion on Dec. 3, 2015, and host the Bruins at Rupp Arena on Dec. 3, 2016.
Under John Calipari, UK reeled in five straight top recruiting classes before settling for just the second-ranked class behind Duke earlier this year. The 55-year-old turned those hauls into an NCAA title in 2012, and a runner-up finish behind UConn in April.
UCLA head coach Steve Alford has pushed to schedule tougher nonconference opponents since arriving in Los Angeles — even if the Bruins (7-2) haven’t looked quite ready for that high bar yet this season. The team was blown out by then-No. 5 North Carolina in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas last month, and will host No. 9 Gonzaga this Saturday. Continue reading →