Some fans have called for UCLA to fire third-year head coach Steve Alford (center) due to the Bruins’ disappointing 2015-16 season, but Pac-12 Networks analyst Don MacLean says it’s too early for that conversation. (David Crane/Staff)
The UCLA men’s basketball team heads into the Pac-12 Tournament mired in one of the most disappointing season in program history, with its 15-16 record making even an NIT invitation very questionable. Perhaps further dimming the Bruins’ chances at a late-season run is their next opponent.
Steve Alford’s 10th-seeded squad will tip off at the MGM Grand Garden Arena at 6 p.m. tomorrow against USC — a team that has comfortably won the last two games in the crosstown rivalry. Pac-12 Networks analyst Don MacLean answered some questions about the Bruins, including what he thinks of Alford’s job security.
Q: What are your impressions of UCLA’s first-round matchup against USC, especially given the results of their past two meetings?
A: “Overall, you wonder where UCLA’s head is at. They haven’t looked good coming down the home stretch here. They’re a No. 10 seed. They’re not going to get into the NCAA Tournament. But what I’m looking for is for them to kind of hit the reset button, and see if they want to try and make a run in this Pac-12 Tournament. So to that degree, I don’t think it really matters who their first-round opponent is. To me, it’s more about their spirit and their will, and if they want to finish out this season the right way. They have underachieved. I think they know that. They have the talent to be better than they are.”
The Bruins finished the regular season with a 15-16 record and 6-12 in the Pac-12 — their worst conference mark since 2002-03, which was the final year of the Steve Lavin era. This loss also sets up a rematch in the Pac-12 Tournament against seventh-seeded USC.
No. 10-seed UCLA, which has already lost twice to the Trojans by 33 combined points, will tip off against its crosstown rival again on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
As center Tony Parker said Wednesday night, UCLA’s struggles have become a “broken record.”
The Bruins fell to Oregon, 76-68, in yet another game that showed off the team’s now-unsurprising inconsistency. In the first half, they held the league-leading Ducks to 35.7 percent from the field, while shooting 54.8 percent. In the second featured almost a mirror image: Oregon rose up to 54.8 percent, while UCLA slid down to 42.9.
The team is now 15-15 overall and 6-11 in the Pac-12, their highest conference loss total since 2003-04.
“Defensively, we worked, and most of it was zone,” said Bruin head coach Steve Alford. “Most of where they got us was in transition. This is the best team in our league, and we shot a high percentage. We just didn’t make enough big plays in the end to get over the hump.”
That zone defense, Parker said, was one reason why the Bruins gave up a 40-28 edge on the glass. The Ducks grabbed 12 offensive rebounds and scored 10 second-chance points.
“The ball goes up, it’s not like five-on-five, where you pretty much know who you’re boxing out every time,” Parker said. “In zone, it could be a different player every time. Sometimes, I might be out on the 3-point line boxing out somebody. … It’s just a different adjustment. We didn’t make it in the second half, but they did.”
The UCLA men’s basketball team is currently on track to place 10th in the Pac-12, a finish that would stand as the lowest of the program’s post-Wooden era.
Asked on Tuesday about what he would do to assuage upset fans, third-year head coach Steve Alford said that the Bruins are just as frustrated with this season’s results — emphasizing the nature of some of their losses, as well as the possibility of a late turnaround in March.
“There’s not a player in the locker room, there’s not a coach on our staff that’s happy that we’re 6-10 in league play,” Alford said. “We’re 15-14 overall. That’s not what we aspire to. …
“Five games, we’ve lost by one possession. Three of them in league play. If you can just get those — that’s the difference of where we’re at now versus, what? 20-9 and 9-7. That’s how close you are. But close doesn’t get it. It’s still the reality. We’re 15-14 and 6-10. And that’s not where we aspire to be. That’s not where we want to be. But that is what we are.”
UCLA’s latest “Made in March” uniforms are far from the worst alternates adidas has ever released. (UCLA Athletics)
Staying true to its annual tradition, Adidas has designed new “Made in March” uniforms to, erm, brighten up the college basketball postseason.
Credit the apparel company with this: By releasing the infamous Zubaz shorts in 2013, it has set the floor so low that just about anything looks good in comparison. In this year’s Pac-12 Tournament, UCLA will wear a fairly traditional color scheme, with a faded triangle pattern just below the waistband meant to evoke John Wooden’s “Pyramid of Success.”
How many appearances the Bruins (15-14, 6-10) will make in these new alternates remains unclear. They are currently on track to be the No. 10 seed in next week’s Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas.
In other basketball news, a petition calling for the firing of third-year head coach Steve Alford has collected more than 1,000 signatures, not an insubstantial figure. Of course, neither is the buyout stipulated in his contract: If UCLA were to dismiss Alford before April 30, 2017, it would owe him $10.4 million, paid out in monthly installments until 2021.