This game went almost exactly as I thought it would. As the AP wrote and the LA Times headlined: "UCLA is barely a speed bump in Kansas' path as No. 5 Jayhawks roll, 92-73"
Kansas found a nice, easy path to the championship game of the Maui Jim Maui Invitational, casually stepping over outmatched UCLA on Tuesday night.
The game actually wasn't as close as the final score, as Kansas (3-1) led by as many as 29 points in the first half, by 59-33 at halftime and by no fewer than 20 for all but the closing seconds.
As I mentioned in the gamethread before the game "Tonight against Kansas UCLA plays a team with talent and a coach. Gimmicks or a funky zone seem unlikely to work tonight" Jack Wang from inside UCLA agreed:
The same zone defense that had flustered UNLV one night earlier didn't put up as much of a fight against an offense that was coming off a 123-point eruption against Chaminade. KU hit 8 of 15 3-pointers, exploiting a weakness that has become common in Steve Alford-coached teams.
Good offensive teams destroy UCLA's offensive defense. (Good news, is we will always have a shot against Arizona as long as Sean "Defense first and offense as an afterthought" Miller is coach.) Continuing with Wang's points, UCLA is in trouble going ahead:
Less than two weeks into its third season under Alford, UCLA is already 0-5 against ranked nonconference opponents. No. 1 Kentucky, No. 10 Gonzaga, and No. 9 North Carolina all dot the team's December slate.
Wang's article is a good read that sums up not just the game but the UCLA basketball program under Alford.
However, I would be remiss if I did not mention the one surprise last night. Isaac Hamilton scored early and often and bounced back from some ugly games to have by far his best game of the season scoring 19 points on 8-13 shooting and having two assists to only one turnover.
I would also be remiss if I did not continue to point out that Steve Alford really misuses Bryce Alford. Part of what Steve says sums it up.
I think Bryce looked a little tired with what happened yesterday, and I fully understand that. It's not easy. He'll learn from that. . . . I'm sure Bryce will bounce back, if I know him. I think I know him pretty well. But just like everybody, different games people have to learn lessons, and I think he'll learn lessons after he watches this tape.
STEVE IT IS YOU WHO NEED TO LEARN THE LESSON. Bryce is not and has not ever been superman. Bryce was clutch and played the ENTIRE 40 minutes Monday against UNLV in a game where they pressed full court the entire time. Then you play him 33 minutes (many after the game is over) against Kansas. Bryce's stat line of 1-6 is not his fault; it is yours. The kid is tired!
His freshman year you could not get through your head that Kyle Anderson should have always been the point when he was in and Zach Lavine when Kyle was out. Last season you left poor Bryce stuck as the only marginal point guard when he is really a two guard. And this season you won't rest him even in a tourney when the game is over. I really hope Bryce does not get hurt but if he does it is on you.
And to be clear. Bryce is a key component of this team.
Enough about last night. Let's talk about not watching the game some more. The Fox71 theory is Steve Alford will win two out of three. UCLA is well positioned to do that today (unless Bryce and others are too tired):
Tonight's opponent, Wake Forest, is the upset winner of its first game against Indiana in the tournament. They reverted to what people thought they were last night.
The game couldn't have started much worse for Wake Forest (3-2). While Vanderbilt was opening 9 of 13 from the field, the Demon Deacons missed 12 of their first 13 shots. That amounted to a 21-5 lead for the Commodores, who beat St. John's 92-55 in the first round.
This could be interesting since UCLA also has a habit of bad starts. While Wake Forest is not a good team they are a balanced team:
Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons came into the game with five players averaging in double figures. They have five players in double figures in the last two games, the first time they've done that since 2006-07. ... Wake Forest had at least a plus-10 rebound advantage in its first four games, the first time it had done that since the first six games of 1997-98 when Tim Duncan was at center. The Commodores ended that streak by outrebounding the Demon Deacons 43-37. ... The win over No. 13 Indiana was Wake Forest's first over a ranked team since March 5, 2014, against No. 4 Duke, and its first outside Winston-Salem since beating No. 4 North Carolina on Jan. 20, 2010.
The fatigue factor will be interesting. Last night Wake Fores rested its inside leader 6'9" Devin Thomas limiting him to 23 minutes. He is averaging 10 rebounds on the season and 17 points. Tony Parker also has fewer minutes than the rest of his team so this might be a good matchup and test for both players.
However, the star of the Maui tournament for Wake has been 6'3" point guard Bryant Crawford who hit the game winning shot against Indiana on Day 1. Crawford can do it all but is also a freshman who turns the ball over a lot.
Actually in some ways these teams look similar. Two teams that rebound well and turn the ball over a lot. Two teams coached by former NCAA Championing players (Danny Manning for Wake Forest).
This is one of those games where intangibles may be the difference. Will Wake be pumped in that they overachieved to get to the third place game? Will UCLA take advantage of a similar but seemingly lesser talented team? Won't both teams be tired and sloppy from having to play three games in three days?
I'll be watching tonight and doing a postgame. But right now it does not look like a team that anyone will be watching in March come tournament time.