Brad Stevens and Shaka Smart’s Reverence For U.C.L.A. Basketball

One time there was another coach from Indiana who came out to UCLA and ... - Andy Lyons

Even though the brand of UCLA basketball has been diminished due to Ben Howland’s mismanagement last four seasons, elite young coaches such as Brad Stevens and Shaka Smart view the program that Coach John R. Wooden built with reverence as one of the best 5 in the country.

Jack Stycsynski, who blogs over at the New York Times college sports blog - the Quad - has published an "analytical rankings of the top men's basketball programs" in the country. The qualifying criterion includes:

The qualifying criterion is teams that have won at least two-thirds of their games over the past 10 seasons, and in the latest version from the November 2012 issue, 33 programs made the cut. The teams were then ranked using six equally weighted criteria: winning percentage; number of former players currently in the N.B.A.; federal graduation rate; academic reputation, as determined by U.S. News & World Report; and coaching and perceived program "cleanliness" as ranked by a panel.

UCLA didn't make it into the list of top-33 programs in the country this year. It didn't make it last year either. It's not much of a surprise given we currently have a program that has missed the tourney two out of last three years and is looking at a boom or bust season depending on the outcome of a drawn out NCAA investigation of a one and done mercenary freshman.

If this turns out to be a bust season, Bruins will be on the market for a new coach. That brings us to this. Stycsynski asked some of the most prominent coaches in the game to name the top basketball programs in the country and the criteria they used to come up with the list. Despite UCLA not making into the over-all list, it showed up in the list of the following coaches:

Brad Stevens, Butler (No. 6 over all)

Programs named: Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, U.C.L.A., Florida

Criteria: "The fact that they've been to multiple Final Fours, often multiple championships. Always a staple, it would be a very rare year that they're not in the N.C.A.A. tournament, and they always seem to, even after a down year, pick up and have an unbelievable year. There's a good foundation for a program. There's good consistency about their program."

Rick Pitino, Louisville (No. 24)

Programs named: Kentucky ("No. 1"), North Carolina, U.C.L.A., Kansas, Duke, Louisville, Syracuse, Georgetown, Connecticut

Criteria: "Excellence. Tradition. Those schools have kept that excellence at a very high level."

Buzz Williams, Marquette (No. 23)

Programs named: Kentucky, North Carolina, Duke, Syracuse, U.C.L.A., Kansas

Criteria: "Tradition, winning, who their coaches were, their success in the N.C.A.A. tournament, the notoriety, exposure, media."

Shaka Smart, Virginia Commonwealth (No. 18)

Programs named: Kansas ("Mind-boggling; they win the league every year"), North Carolina, Kentucky, Duke,U.C.L.A.

Criteria: "Just winning. Winning games and winning championships. Sustaining success through different eras, through coaching changes, through player graduation or guys leaving early."

Interestingly Jamie Dixon didn't have UCLA in his list of top-5 programs, which itself is an indictment against his former mentor's total mismanagement of one of the most storied programs in game.

Anyway, something to keep in mind. Coaches like Shaka Smart and Brad Stevens view UCLA as one of the top-5 programs in the country, even though Howland flushed it down you know what last four years, while looking to survive in a boom or bust season full of IFs.

GO BRUINS.

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