Basketball roundup: Halfcourt shots, postseason bonuses and David Grace

MEMPHIS — Norman Powell ended UCLA’s afternoon practice today with his arms raised, celebrating a shot he drilled from halfway down the FedEx Forum floor.

He said it’s the fourth half-court shot he’s hit after a shootaround this season, and tied an ongoing competition the players have with the coaches. Kyle Anderson leads the Bruins with six makes.

Powell said he isn’t sure what’s at stake in the competition besides pride.

Some other stories from this week:
– To get to UCLA, assistant coach David Grace took a circuitous path that followed a 20-year Air Force career.
– Steve Alford has earned $65,000 in performance bonuses on the way to his first Sweet Sixteen since 1999.

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UCLA basketball schedules December game against Kentucky

Even before UCLA’s season began, Steve Alford has insisted that he wants to schedule tough, marquee opponents going forward — something he had little control over his first season.

“I’ve never been somebody that’s hid from opponents,” Alford said more than three months ago.

After squeezing in a game against Duke last winter, he continues backing that up. According to the Columbus Dispatch, the Bruins will face Kentucky in December at the United Center in Chicago. Continue reading

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At a glance: No. 4 UCLA vs. No. 1 Florida

NCAA Tournament, South Region
Sweet Sixteen:
No. 4 UCLA (28-8) vs. No. 1 Florida (34-2)
When: Thursday, 6:45 p.m. PT, FedEx Forum (Memphis)
TV: CBS (Kevin Harlan, Len Elmore, Reggie Miller, Rachel Nichols)
Radio: AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Tracy Murray)

FLORIDA GATORS
RPI/Pomeroy ranking: 1 / 1

Best wins: Beat second-seeded Kansas in a December home victory, allowing 26 points to Andrew Wiggins but holding every other Jayhawk to single digits in a 67-61 decision. Beat No. 8-seed Kentucky three times over a four-week span, by 10-, 19- and 1-point margins.

Worst losses: None. Lost at Wisconsin and UConn by a combined seven points. The Huskies needed a buzzer-beater from Shabazz Napier to hold on.

***

Key numbers: Lots to choose from here: 18th-most efficient offense, second-most efficient defense, a 28-game winning streak that tops college basketball.

But let’s start with 240, Florida center Patric Young’s listed weight. Continue reading

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How much do big winning streaks help? Steve Alford draws on his past to explain

Back in 1995, Steve Alford was a fledgling head coach at Manchester College. Just 30 years old, he guided the tiny Indiana school to 31 straight wins, a perfect record blemished only when the Spartans lost to Wisconsin–Platteville in the Division III national title game.

As he prepares to take UCLA to its first Sweet Sixteen since 2008 — and a first for him since 1999 — standing in the way tonight is a Stephen F. Austin squad that has won 29 straight. He remarked on the similarities between the Lumberjacks and the first program he ever coached. Continue reading

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At a glance: No. 4 UCLA vs. No. 12 Stephen F. Austin

NCAA Tournament, South Region
Round of 64:
No. 4 UCLA (27-8) vs. No. 12 Stephen F. Austin (32-2)
When: Sunday, 4:10 p.m. PT, Viejas Arena (San Diego State)
TV: TBS (Andrew Catalon, Mike Gminski, Otis Livingston)
Radio: AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Tracy Murray)

STEPHEN F. AUSTIN LUMBERJACKS
RPI/Pomeroy ranking: 52 / 44

Best wins: Friday night’s 77-75 overtime upset of Virginia Commonwealth, by far. VCU — which had a No. 13 RPI — was only Stephen F. Austin’s second top-100 RPI opponent this season, and probably deserved to win until it fouled on a 3-point attempt while up four points. A 29-win streak usually requires some breaks, and the Lumberjacks benefited from the Rams’ bone-headed play.

Besides that, SFA’s Southland Conference schedule didn’t really offer anyone of note. Its 10-point win over Towson (RPI 100) in December would be the next bullet point on the resume. Continue reading

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How similar are Tulsa’s James Woodard and Stanford’s Chasson Randle?

Tulsa’s best player is unquestionably sophomore guard James Woodard, an All-Conference USA second-team selection who leads the team in scoring and rebounding.

Unsurprisingly, head coach Steve Alford pointed out Woodard as the main focus of the scouting report for UCLA’s Friday tipoff against the Golden Hurricane. Alford and Bruin guard Norman Powell compared Woodard to Stanford junior Chasson Randle, who combined for 51 points on 16-of-40 shooting in his three games against the Bruins.

Here’s how their stats measure up heading into the NCAA tournament:
Woodard, 6-3, 183 | 15.7 ppg, 44.2 FG%, 38.9 3P%, 78.2 FT%, 1.8 apg, 5.8 rpg, 1.0 spg
Randle, 6-2, 185 | 18.7 ppg, 48.5 FG%, 39.7 3P%, 76.5 FT%, 2.2 apg, 3.5 rpg, 0.9 spg Continue reading

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Basketball roundup: The Wooden family, coaching parallels, and 1994

The NCAA tournament’s round of 64 officially starts today, so hopefully you all filled out your brackets for a chance at Warren Buffett’s $1 billion. UCLA doesn’t tip off until Friday at around 7 p.m., but in the meantime, here’s a roundup of some of the coverage so far in this week’s Daily News:

– The Woodens are working to make sure their family legacy lives on.
– Danny Manning and Steve Alford’s careers have a few curious parallels.
– Tyus Edney reflects on UCLA’s 1994 loss to Tulsa, a game he ranks as the most disappointing of his college career.

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Forward Wanaah Bail undergoes left knee surgery, ruled out for first NCAA weekend

UCLA forward Wanaah Bail had surgery on his left knee today to remove torn cartilage, likely ending his first season with the Bruins.

The 6-foot-9 freshman only played 60 minutes this season, logging 41 of those in nonconference play. He had surgery to repair cartilage in the same knee last June, and reinjured it on Monday. The former three-star recruit had looked fully recovered after the early portion of the season, and showed impressive athleticism during practices.

Bail is officially ruled out for UCLA’s first weekend in the NCAA tournament, and is questionable to return at all in the postseason. Given how little coach Steve Alford used Bail this season, there is little sense in rushing him back even if the Bruins advance to the Sweet Sixteen.

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