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Maui Wrap Up, Long Season Ahead?

UCLA is 3-3 and has a number of tough games coming up

Alford has reasons to worry as it looks like a long season
Alford has reasons to worry as it looks like a long season
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

UCLA Basketball has fallen so far that the Fishwrap is not even bother sending the Intern to cover the games.  They are just using the AP story for UCLA 80-77 loss to Wake Forest.  Jack Wang of Inside UCLA wrote an article that summed up the game:

For the first time since 2011, the team suffered its third loss before the end of November, falling to fourth place in the Maui Invitational. UCLA (3-3) closed its deficit to 70-69 with 4:32 left in the game, but couldn't find the basket again until the final minute.

The Demon Deacons' biggest edge came at the free-throw line, where they made 30 of an astounding 42 attempts — though 14 came in the last 62 seconds. The Bruins hit 8 of 14. Center Thomas Welsh and freshman guard Aaron Holiday both fouled out while trying to stop the clock late.

"I've been doing this 25 years," Alford said. "I've been on the short end of a lot of things. I've never had an experience where I've had a team get out-shot 42-14 at the free-throw line. That was the difference in the game."

In what is becoming a familiar theme in Alford's third season, the Wake Forest took advantage of UCLA's 11 turnovers, turning them into 24 points. In contrast, the Bruins only got four points off Wake Forest's 10 turnovers.

Since there is not much news on the game let's take a minute to put UCLA's 3-3 record in perspective.  As Wang mentioned UCLA started bad in 2011-12 and missed the tournament.  Ben Howland should have been fired for not just missing the tournament but for all the other problems with the team (Reeves was late catching the plane to Maui that year).  He was not fired because of the great recruiting class he had coming in the next year.

Some will say that Alford's seat won't get hot regardless of how bad things get because of that recruiting class.  Others will say it won't happen because of his ridiculous contract.  Regardless, Steve Alford is on pace to have the worst third season of any UCLA Basketball Coach.  UCLA doesn't  look likely to get more than a game above 500 for the rest of the calendar year with #1 Kentucky, #10 Gonzaga and #9 North Carolina all upcoming.

Actually, I think the better analogy as far as seasons may be 2009-10.  UCLA opened the season against Cal State Fullerton and lost in double overtime.  I'll never forget my buddy who watches sports for a living calling me during the saying "ESPN just said Michael Roll was our star?  He is a great kid but if that is true it is going to be a long season."  Roll was All Pac 10 and our star.  We also had a losing record.  For Roll could not play Defense on the PAC 10 level and UCLA was forced in part to play zone all the time to keep him on the court.

Now in 2015 our star is Bryce Alford.  For what it's worth I think Bryce is a better player than Roll in most ways except in desire and brains.  Roll was a smart player who rarely took bad shots.  Bryce is a legitimate combo guard who is adept at drawing fouls and capable of making some tough shots and long threes.   But Bryce is not an elite athlete, he takes awful shots early in the clock at times and his effort on D is often questioned.

But here is the thing.  The only game of the Maui tourney we won was because of two things, the second was Bryce.  Bryce was masterful at drawing fouls.  He was a calming presence against UNLV athletic press.   He even helped Tony Parker a few times down low in the 3-2 (or 1-2-2 I like to call it).

Steve Alford said Bryce had to play 40 in that game.  Bryce was tired the rest of the tourney.  It is another reason we lost last night.  Even getting blown out against Kansas Steve Alford felt that he had to keep Bryce on the court.

Which brings me to the next problem.  Last season was the worst bench in UCLA history without injuries or transfers.  This year isn't much better.  The 4 star who was going to be our savior at three and four,  Jonah Bolden was -13 last night in his seven minutes against Wake Forest.  Bolden was so bad that was benched for all but the final seconds of the second for Alex Olesinski.  About half the games this year the lightly recruited Olesinski has looked better than Bolden.  Now Bolden has shown talent as he single-handedly disrupted UNLV's offense to help us get our only win in Maui but on offense he is a bad shooting four who likes to stay on the perimeter.  Bolden showed he is a very good tall athlete but not a basketball player yet.

Bolden's inability to play PAC 12 level basketball has forced UCLA to play Thomas Welsh and Tony Parker together.  Welsh is a great kid and a hard worker.  But he can't cover a wing in a zone and he will always be slow.  Parker, Bryce, Isaac Hamilton, and Welsh make UCLA an incredibly slow team that gets beat in transition as Wang pointed out.  Welsh is much improved on offense and a real threat but he is still slow for a Center let alone a Power forward.  Welsh needs to be guarding a big or the paint.  But any way you look at Welsh and Parker are two of UCLA best players and you need them on the floor.

That is why this UCLA team is in trouble.  No UCLA Coach has finished worse than fourth in their third season.  UCLA was picked fifth in the pre-season poll.  No one picked UCLA to lose to Monmouth or Wake Forest without their starting point guard.

This may be a long season.  I hope I am wrong.