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.
Less than two weeks ago, Steve Alford publicly held on to hope. He talked about UCLA’s ability to make a late run, to bolster a resume that had become thinner and thinner since the turn of the new year.
Now, finally, the Bruins seem to have run out of time. A 79-70 loss at Stanford on Saturday clinched them a losing conference record — just the fourth time this has happened in the post-Wooden era. All four occurrences have come in the last 14 years.
UCLA’s path to an NCAA Tournament berth will almost certainly require them to win the Pac-12 Tournament. Judging from the type of basketball these Bruins (15-14, 6-10) have played as of late, however, and that seems like a Sisyphean task.
At Maples Pavilion, UCLA showed little sign that it can fix the problems that have haunted the team all season. It allowed the Cardinal to shoot 61.2 percent from the field, their highest mark of the season. Only one other Pac-12 team — Oregon — had allowed Stanford to clear even 48 percent.
Much of the damage was done inside. Sophomore forward Michael Humphrey scored 24 points, just two points shy of the career high he set against Washington State earlier this month. The 6-foot-9 big man helped give Stanford a 32-18 scoring edge in the paint, corralling four of his team’s nine offensive boards.
UCLA's post-game locker room remained closed for a while. “The team is kind of a lost cause right now," Bryce Alford said, when he emerged.
After a 75-63 loss to Cal, UCLA coach Steve Alford is now 9-17 in Pac-12 road games in three seasons. (Steve McCrank/Staff)
Against the Pac-12’s stingiest defense, UCLA needed nearly five minutes to finally make its first field goal. The Bruins never erased that deficit.
A 75-63 loss at Cal on Thursday kept Steve Alford at just two Pac-12 road wins this season, and knocked him down to an uninspiring 9-17 record during his UCLA tenure. With just three games left in the regular season, the Bruins (15-13, 6-9) are now assured their a non-winning conference record for just the fifth time since 1978 — when the league expanded to 10 teams and an 18-game schedule.
The more immediate ramifications are the almost certain erasure of the Bruins’ chances at the NCAA Tournament. If so, it comes in a year that might see the Pac-12 produce as many as seven March Madness bids, the most in the league’s 12-team era.
While losing at Haas Pavilion wasn’t exactly a case of the Bruins playing down to an inferior team, they also didn’t exactly help themselves. They missed their first five shots, finally breaking through on a floater by junior Isaac Hamilton. Throw in three early turnovers, and that meant a 13-1 game-opening run by Cal — not the type of cushion you want to give to a team that is undefeated at home. Continue reading →
Tony Parker returned to UCLA’s starting lineup last Saturday, helping the Bruins to a 77-53 win over Colorado. The senior center will keep that role for at least one more game.
Steve Alford said Tuesday that he will keep the 6-foot-9 Parker in his starting five for Thursday’s 6 p.m. tipoff at Cal — relegating 7-foot sophomore Thomas Welsh to the bench. The third-year head coach emphasized that his changes over the last month have not been made to penalize either player.
“Whether it’s Tony or Tom, it’s not a discipline or punishment standpoint,” Alford said.
He added that he is also open to playing both Parker and Welsh together again in a “big-big” lineup if the matchup proves beneficial. The combination, which UCLA used for most of the season before making sophomore Jonah Bolden its starting power forward, gave the team some offensive advantages at the cost of its defense.
Regardless of who Alford plays, he’ll need to figure out how to beat a Cal team that is 16-0 at Haas Pavilion this season. The Bears hold opponents to just 38.8 percent from the field, easily the lowest mark in the Pac-12, and also rank first in the conference in defensive efficiency according to Ken Pomeroy. Alford praised their athleticism and their size, pointing out the presence of star freshman Ivan Rabb as well as 7-footers Kameron Rooks and Kingsley Okoroh.
“They really just tee it up one-on-one and say, ‘You’re not gonna beat us one-on-one,'” Alford said. “That’s a great thing to have, because you don’t see them having to help a lot. And because they don’t help a lot, they don’t give up a lot of open looks. They make open looks hard on you.”