Despite reduced role, Bryce Alford still UCLA’s alpha

Bryce Alford’s worst slump of the season came in UCLA’s last three games before the NCAA tournament

Were Lonzo Ball a larger personality resembling, say, his father, it’s safe to say his relationship with Bryce Alford would be different. By all accounts, the two have meshed fantastically this season.

Ball is UCLA’s floor leader and Alford is its vocal leader. It’s an arrangement that evolved organically.

Alford has willingly accepted a reduced role on the court – he’s taking two less shots per game this season – but his shooting percentage has jumped from 38.5 last season to 45.2 this season, allowing him to maintain essentially the same number of points per game.

READ: Bryce Alford slumping at the worst possible time

From a pure basketball perspective, the Ball-Alford dynamic works in perfect harmony. Of course, it’s hard to find a player who doesn’t work well on the court with the best point guard in the country. Alford is UCLA’s best shooter, but has difficulty creating his own shot. Ball is leading the nation in assists in part because he is remarkably unconcerned about how many points he scores and is hyperfocused on setting up quality shots for his teammates.

Off the court, it’s Ball who gives the team a pep talk before every game, but Alford, for example, is the one who called the players-only meeting after UCLA’s only two-game losing streak that altered the course of the rest of the season. Continue reading “Despite reduced role, Bryce Alford still UCLA’s alpha” »

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Las Vegas giving UCLA more respect than a 3 seed

UCLA, a No. 3 seed in the South, has 12/1 odds to win the NCAA tournament

UCLA may be a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament, but Las Vegas is treating it like a No. 2.

The Bruins were given the seventh-best odds to win the tournament by SportsBettingDime.com and the eighth-best odds by Bovada. At one point earlier this season, UCLA was the betting favorite to win the NCAA tournament.

Bovada’s current favorite is Duke at 13/2 and SportsBettingDime.com’s is Kansas at 7/1. UCLA is listed at 12/1 by both.

Other props involving UCLA on SportsBettingDime.com include 7/2 odds that the national champion will be a Pac-12 team, 14/1 odds Lonzo Ball will be the Most Outstanding Player and 1/8 odds Charley Barkley criticizes LaVar Ball, Lonzo’s father, during the tournament.

Bovada gives UCLA 5/1 odds to emerge from the South region and make the Final Four. Top seed North Carolina (5/4) and No. 2 seed Kentucky (11/4) both have better odds to win the South. Continue reading “Las Vegas giving UCLA more respect than a 3 seed” »

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UCLA earns No. 3 seed, possible Sweet 16 matchup with Kentucky

UCLA earned a No. 3 seed in the South region in the NCAA Tournament and have a possible rematch with second-seeded Kentucky waiting in the Sweet 16.

The Bruins face 14th-seeded Kent State in the first round on Friday in Sacramento.

(Update): The game will be the last one played on truTV and will tip off after the conclusion of the Cincinnati vs. Kansas State/Wake Forest game, which starts at 4:27 p.m. PT. Here’s the TV information for the full slate of first- and second-round games.

UCLA got a marquee win over Kentucky in Rupp Arena on Dec. 3. The Wildcats went on to win the SEC regular season and tournament championships.

North Carolina (27-7) is the No. 1 seed in the South region after winning the regular season ACC title and advancing to the conference tournament semifinal (corrected), where the Tar Heels lost to Duke.

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UCLA looks like a No. 3 seed, can hope for a No. 2

UCLA’s hopes for a No. 1 seed were probably gone when the NCAA tournament committee projected it as a No. 4 seed Feb. 11.

Hopes for a No. 2 seed probably disappeared Saturday night when Arizona and Oregon left the Bruins behind on the way to the Pac-12 tournament final.

UCLA is most likely looking at a No. 3 seed when the NCAA tournament brackets are announced on Sunday.

Of the 117 bracket projections tracked by Bracket Matrix, 74 of them have UCLA as a No. 3 seed and 31 have the Bruins as a No. 2 seed.

Joe Lunardi of ESPN and Jerry Palm of CBS both project UCLA as the No. 3 seed in the East region, which would allow the Bruins to begin the tournament in Sacramento. Should they advance to the second weekend, they would play in New York.

Both Lunardi and Palm’s No. 2 seeds include three teams UCLA has beaten this season and one with twice as many losses as the Bruins: Oregon, Arizona, Kentucky and Duke. Of course, it’s difficult to sell an argument that Oregon and Arizona should not be seeded higher than UCLA. Continue reading “UCLA looks like a No. 3 seed, can hope for a No. 2” »

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UCLA’s strength isn’t as reliable as Arizona’s


If UCLA could have pre-selected the time of year for its two worst offensive performances of the season, it probably wouldn’t have been its final two games before the NCAA tournament.

The No. 3 Bruins shot a season-worst 40.7 percent from the field in last night’s 86-75 loss to Arizona. UCLA’s 41.2 percent shooting in a 76-74 win over USC one night earlier was its worst mark of the season to that point.

UCLA leads the country in shooting percentage (52.2%), but after losing to Arizona, coach Steve Alford could only repeat a line from the night before. “We missed a lot of open looks I thought we normally make,” he said.

UCLA has owned its offensive identity all season. It hasn’t just been great on that end of the floor, it has been historically great.

But there’s a reason the Bruins have faced difficult questions about its defensive concerns all season. Defense it more reliable than offense.

Arizona is a good example. The Wildcats rank 28th in the country in defensive efficiency, per kenpom.com. They lost to UCLA in McKale Center Feb. 25, but Saturday night’s convincing victory gave Arizona the edge in the season series. UCLA’s strength isn’t as reliable as Arizona’s. Continue reading “UCLA’s strength isn’t as reliable as Arizona’s” »

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