UCLA picked to finish fourth in Pac-12 media poll

After losing four starters from last year’s Sweet 16 squad, UCLA men’s basketball was picked to finish fourth in the Pac-12.

A preseason media poll slotted the Bruins behind Arizona, Utah and Colorado — but did give them one first-place vote. All 31 other first-place votes went to the Wildcats, widely considered a national title contender.

They lost guard Nick Johnson and forward Aaron Gordon — the Pac-12 Player and Freshman of the Year, respectively — but return point guard T.J. McConnell and adds five-star recruit Stanley Johnson.

“There’s no better team than Arizona,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle told USA Today last week. Continue reading

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L.A. Cathedral guard Kobe Paras commits to UCLA’s 2016 class

UCLA basketball has landed its second 2016 commitment in unranked guard Kobe Paras.

The 6-foot-5 wing sat out his first season at L.A. Cathedral after moving from the Philippines, and will make his U.S. high school debut as a junior next month. Paras helped the Philippines to a gold medal in the FIBA Asia Under-18 3×3 championship in May 2013.

He is the son of Benjie Paras, a former two-time MVP center in the Philippine Basketball Association.

Paras joins five-star guard Lonzo Ball in the Bruins’ 2016 class.

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Weekly Q&A — 10/6/14 Answers

Q: Did you see enough from Steve Alford’s first year as basketball coach that warranted a one-year extension?

A: No. A Sweet Sixteen in his first season was probably a better result than anyone could have imagined a year ago, but Alford was already being handsomely paid on a contract that retained him through the 2019-2020 season. But that contract — which contained an unusual mirrored buyout that gave him extra job security — also stipulated that he and athletic director Dan Guerrero will meet each year to discuss to “option” of an extension.

I can see an argument for an extension if he only had, say, three years left on his contract. But setting up an agreement where he could potentially be extended every single year seems unnecessary.

Q: What are some of the keys surrounding the offensive line’s poor performance? It’s astounding that a unit with so many four-star athletes could give up 10 sacks in a game. Is there a schematic issue here or a lack of player development?

A: Brett Hundley could have done much more to avoid some of those sacks against Utah. But the offensive line also did little to block off the edge. Even while attributing sacks to “all 11,” Jim Mora admitted that the team struggled on the edge, and that “a couple guys that usually play pretty darn well didn’t play as well as they’re capable.” Continue reading

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UCLA extends basketball coach Steve Alford through 2020-21

After guiding UCLA to its first Sweet 16 appearance since 2008, Steve Alford has signed a one-year extension to his already very lucrative contract.

The Bruins announced today that Alford signed a new agreement keeping as the head coach of the men’s basketball team through the 2020-21 season, adding an extra bit of security to his original seven-year, $18.2 million contract. That contract included an unusually large $10.4 million buyout if he quit the job before April 30, 2016; if UCLA fired him before that date, it would in turn pay him that amount.

The original contract also stipulated that he and athletic director Dan Guerrero would meet each April to discuss the “option to extend the employment agreement, in writing, an additional year.” Continue reading

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Weekly Q&A — 9/15/14 Answers

Note: Presumably to keep the status of Brett Hundley’s injured left elbow under wraps, UCLA has shut down access almost entirely this bye week. Not only are practices closed, but the practice times have not been released.

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Q: Did the running game and OL have a breakthrough against Texas which may bode well for upcoming games, or was Texas just gassed at that point?

A: I think it was a legitimate step forward for the offensive line and running back Paul Perkins. UCLA only had a slight edge in time of possession (31:12 to Texas’ 28:48), so I don’t think the Longhorns defense was particularly worn down. Texas’ offense actually held a significant 10:56 to 4:04 edge in the second quarter, then came out of halftime to give up that 58-yard run to Perkins that set up the Bruins’ first touchdown.

But left tackle Malcolm Bunche injured his left foot; he reentered the game, but was seen on crutches afterward. Conor McDermott would likely start in Bunche’s place if needed.

Q: What do you think is going to happen with Asiantii Woulard? Jerry Neuheisel seems to have gotten a firm grip on the backup quarterback spot and Josh Rosen is coming in. Unless he makes a leap soon, is he the odd man out?

A: That’s going to be the big question heading into spring. Right now, Woulard isn’t in an ideal spot. I think Woulard will at least stick around and compete for the starting spot through spring. If he loses out, he could decide to stick around anyway, change positions or transfer — but it’s a bit early to say at this point.

Q: Do you think maybe UCLA has been playing with too much restraint and not enough heart through the first three games and Neuheisel the Younger stepping in uncorked their emotions? Continue reading

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Graduate transfer guard Jon Octeus denied admission to UCLA

The hits keep coming for UCLA basketball.

For the second time in four days, the Bruins lost a player expected to contribute immediately during Steve Alford’s second season. As first reported by the Coloradoan, potential graduate transfer guard Jon Octeus has been denied admission to UCLA.

Octeus had averaged 13.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game as a junior at Colorado State last season, and had intended to play his final season with the Bruins.

UCLA’s backcourt rotation now consists of senior Norman Powell, and sophomores Bryce Alford, Isaac Hamilton and Noah Allen.

The Bruins also lost the services of true freshman Jonah Bolden, a four-star wing who last Friday was ruled a partial qualifier and thus ineligible to play the 2014-15 season.

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UCLA four-star forward Jonah Bolden declared ineligible

UCLA will enter its second season under Steve Alford without a promising freshman.

A school spokesperson confirmed that four-star forward Jonah Bolden was ruled a partial qualifier by the NCAA, meaning that he must sit out the entire 2014-15 season. He will remain on scholarship.

According to ESPN, the problem was caused by the fact that Bolden moved from Australia to Findlay Prep in Las Vegas after his senior season had already started. Continue reading

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