UCLA basketball finalizes 2015-16 nonconference schedule

UCLA men’s basketball released its upcoming nonconference schedule today, and the spot to mark in your calendar is Dec. 3.

That’s when the Bruins will host Kentucky, facing a team that dismantled them in an 83-44 blowout last December in Chicago — one that the Wildcats opened with a 24-0 run. UK will almost certainly enter Pauley Pavilion as the favorite, but this is also a team that lost seven players from its Final Four squad.

As has become customary under head coach Steve Alford — who is heading into his third season — UCLA has a loaded nonconference slate that also includes a visit to Gonzaga on Dec. 12, and a game against North Carolina on Dec. 19 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Both teams beat the Bruins by double-digits last winter. The Bulldogs also ended UCLA’s season with a 74-62 win in the Sweet 16.

“I’ve maintained all along that we want to upgrade our program’s schedule in hopes of playing tough and exciting marquee games,” Alford said in a statement, “and I’d say we’ve moved even further in that direction this year. … This non-conference schedule figures to be one of the strongest in the nation, and I know our players can’t wait to take on this challenge.”

The Bruins could also play Kansas and Indiana in November’s Maui Invitational, a tournament that also includes St. John’s, UNLV and Wake Forest.

UCLA’s first competition will come in an exhibition game against Cal State Los Angeles on Oct. 30, and it will officially open its season against Monmouth on Nov. 13.

See the full nonconference schedule below: Continue reading

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Is Steve Alford the anti-Bob Knight?

For some more insight into the life of UCLA head coach Steve Alford, try this Los Angeles Times profile from 1997. Alford, then 32, was coaching Southwest Missouri State and two years away from his lone Sweet Sixteen appearance.

There’s all sorts of anecdotes in the piece, from Alford practicing his shot by tossing Ping-Pong balls into Pringles cans, to him making 218 straight free throws when challenged by a player to beat 23. Most interesting might be his relationship with former coach and mentor Bob Knight, with whom he won an Olympic gold medal in 1984 and an NCAA championship in 1987.

Alford got Knight, a man who thinks “hope” is the worst word in the English language, to tell him this: “I just want you to know how much I appreciate you. You stand for everything this program is about. I don’t think I could care about you more than I do if you were my own son.” Continue reading

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New UCLA head coach Steve Alford: The good, the bad, the ugly

Former New Mexico coach Steve Alford isn’t a home-run hit as a coaching hire, but under the circumstances, UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero could have done worse. With Butler’s Brad Stevens and VCU’s Shaka Smart recommitted to their respective programs, the Bruins’ were running out of big-name options.

Alford’s recent 10-year extension with the Lobos proved to be a minor obstacle, and Guerrero had clearly been communicating with the coach about the job for at least the past few days. Here’s a look at what the 48-year-old Alford brings to Westwood.

The good: Continue reading

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