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UCLA Basketball: Alford’s Lost Season

As of now, Steve Alford appears to be standing pat for the 2014-15 season, and the regime is trying to put the best spin on it.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

My BS antennae were buzzing this week.  I picked up a theme in the internet chatter.  Seems like after the fact, some people would have us believe there was a grand strategy for not pursuing a point guard or shooting guard for next season.  The strategy is to play home run ball, and the goal is a national championship in 2016 or 2017 (the two seasons after next).  To complete this neat package, there was a reason for the long-term contract and onerous buy out provision for the coach:  Alford shouldn't have to worry about the first two or three years, we are building another dynasty for the future.  Ignore those pesky fans -- this isn't Wall Street with the short-sighted quarterly earnings expectations.

There is a kernel of truth to this.  It's really rather simple.  You get 13 scholarships every year.  If everyone who won't be a senior stayed, we'd have Parker, Hamilton, Alford, Looney, Welsh, Bolden, Golomon, Bail, and Allen.  That's nine.  Add 2015 newcomer Aaron Holiday and you have 10 players on scholarship which leaves you three to give out.  That's not enough considering the 2015-16 is thought to be one of the best classes in recent memory.  So do you hand out a scholarship to one of the transfers or decommits we've spoken about before, or do you wait?  In this case, you start by saying:  things happened, and we are where we are.  Then you decide to wait because the quality of player available to you is higher.  That's it.  Not much of a strategy, just a simple decision.

Of course, when all is said and done, there likely will be more than three scholarships available.  There may be a one or two and done in this crop, there may be one or two transfers, and since the coach and his wife are got a couple of nice beemers thrown into the package, the least Alford can do is take his son of scholarship.  Nevertheless, it is a tight situation.

Here's Scout's list of UCLA's prospects for 2015.  There are 37 names on the list of which I would say seven have explicitly said we are on their remaining list (Diamond Stone, Bennie Boatwright, Stephen Zimmerman, Carlton Bragg, Chase Jeter, Ray Smith, and Chance Comanche).  Of course, this is fluid.  I think we CAN wind up with a class of five including Aaron Holiday.  Choices will have to be made regarding the scholarship ceiling.

The recruiting process can be a tricky dance.  The coaches have to continually ask if their "ins" are good with a wide variety of recruits, they have to play a yield game in competition with all the other elite schools,  and of course, you can't directly bad mouth a recruit as not good enough - it will come back to haunt you.

So in a recruiting ecosystem that includes fans and donors who are hungry for every tidbit, we get a spinning carousel of ever-changing names.  Where do the names come from?  The paid analysts generate names to sell subscriptions, and, in this age of viral video and AAU coaches, names pop up organically starting with the highlight reels we're all familiar with.  But of course many of them come from the staff via the paid internet services or donors and other insiders who love to spread the word on those same boards.  I will never understand the mid-level and near-whale donors who feel the need to broadcast their status to the fans.

Then Kyle (staff rationalization: but his father said he would leave before the season even started), Zach (staff rationalization:  he had a few dunks in the OOC, and then his father says in December that he's leaving)  and Jordan (staff rationalization:  he changed his mind-we were shocked, we don't know why) leave for the draft,  all-of-sudden we need a shooting guard as well as a point guard, a huge market develops in transfers and decommits, Kansas grabs a good-looking point guard, and we schedule a bunch of visits, but no one commits.  Finally, we are asked to suspend disbelief.  We got the number three class in 2014, and 2015 will be even better.

Just one thing.  What about 2014-15?  I wrote about 2014-15 pre and post-Jordan here and here.  The Bruins with Jordan were challenging Arizona for the conference. 

Who knows, a graduate transfer, particularly a point guard, could have pushed us over the top.  Then the PAC-12 proceeded to implode putting us back in the race again.  Do you really give up - and then claim you're making some ingenious strategic move?