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UCLA Men's Basketball Can Do Better

We do not hate Bryce Alford

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

First of all, I would like to welcome back everybody who went missing during UCLA's two game lossfest last weekend against the Washington schools. And, by this I mean those who defend Steve Alford as a good coach, and someone who will get us back to national prominence. Your end of the peanut gallery always seems to get pretty quiet when we lose to teams we should beat. But, don't you worry. We still love and missed you guys. It was even predicted you guys would return as soon as we got another 'big' win under our belt. Some even named UofA.

And then, 87 - 84 happened.

I don't have to tell you, things got mighty testy here on Bruins Nation. Some, like myself, stated plainly that we were happy with the win BUT wished Bryce wouldn't play hero ball like he did at the end of the game. I also said I felt the team played well, and played like a team; that is, until the end of the game. (When it became obvious that Bryce and only Bryce was going to take the last shot.)

And, then someone pulled out the tired old line. "Why do you hate Bryce? Why do you hate the Alfords? Why can't you just be happy with a win?" It really does add up to a lot of fun, if that's your thing. At the  time of writing this there were 186 comments on the post game post. 24 (approximately) were original stand alone comments. That means 162 comments were in response to somebody else. That's a lot of flames, my friends.

So, I feel the need to clear things up a bit. I'm not going to rehash every single word he said or she said. I want to speak about the principles behind my comments, and I think a lot of people are in agreement.

1) We define success differently around here.

We believe in Coach's definition of success like some people believe in the constitution, and others believe in God. It is infallible.

What this means for the sake of this argument, is that there is more to competitive greatness than just wins and losses. I think some people only care about wins and losses and that is why those people would like us to just enjoy the win for what it is, and not think about unpleasant things, like how we actually won the game.

Actually, now I do need to quote something somebody said in the post game.

What makes you think some community members didn't enjoy the win?

From my point of view, the games (win or lose) are less enjoyable than they were 10 years ago because the quality of the basketball is much lower.

Also, please remember what gbruin wrote with respect to our football team: "Let’s not accept in a win what we wouldn’t in a loss." Yes, the Bruins won last night, but many of the same things that hurt the Bruins in Washington were on display against Arizona. Some of us want to see those things corrected whether or not the Bruins win.

She nailed it. When quality is what you seek, it is hard to happy with anything else; even if 'good enough' gets you the win. I only ever heard Coach Wooden speak but once while at UCLA, but it changed me forever. One of the things I took away from his presentation to us was that there is a right way to do things and a wrong way to do things. You may do things the wrong way and get positive results, but you will have still done it the wrong way. You may do things the right way and not get as positive results as the other guy who did it the wrong way, but it's not because of skill, it's because sometimes that's just the way things turn out.

Let's jump into the way back machine. Sam Farmer wrote this great article about the final seconds of Game 7 in the 1962 NBA finals. With Jerry West and Elgin Baylor on the team, Hot Rod Hundley passed the ball to Frank Selvy to take the last shot against Boston with five seconds left.  If he had made it, the Lakers win the championship.  He missed, and Boston won it in overtime.  The Lakers play was to get the ball to the open man, and Selvy was the open man.  It wasn’t 'get the ball to West' or, 'get the ball to Baylor no matter what.' But, that's how it works with Steve Alford.

Repeat after me: It's about more than the wins and losses.

2) It's not about Bryce. It's about how Bryce is used.

It's been said here before by people who know basketball much better than I do, that Bryce is a shooting guard being forced to play the point. A couple years ago, the issue was whether Bryce or Zach Lavine should be playing more point. A second issue was whether Bryce should be playing point with Kyle Anderson on the floor as he often did with Kyle moving to four. But, it was not then, and it is not now Bryce's fault where his coach has him play.

And, just like it is not Bryce's decision where to play on the floor, it is not Bryce's decision to run the plays we run. In particular, plays that isolate him and obligate him to take the last shot.  It's not Bryce's fault we have one potential/future point guard on the roster and turned away/missed on recruiting point guards over the last few years.  However, one has to wonder if Steve Alford would have succeeded if Bryce played Center.

3) It's not about Bryce's effort on offense but his lack of effort on defense.

The Kentucky and Arizona games were two of Bryce's better games on defense.  Bryce was not great or maybe even good but he was not horrid or non-existent as he was in the WSU game.  And, that's a big issue! Many games Bryce does not even try on defense.  As a veteran player, and the coach's son, he is setting a bad example for the team and it spreads.  We have seen Steve Alford bench Bryce (briefly and rarely) for bad shots, it would be great to see him yanked once in awhile for not trying on D.  And this can spread to the rest of the team, if Bryce does not play D, why should I?

An example of this is Aaron Holiday.  Holiday was great last night defensively on Arizona's best outside shooter, York. He chased York everywhere.  In the Washington games, he was not very good on defense and going under screens at times. Bryce exerting effort on defense inspires other players as well and his not trying has an effect as well.

If Steve Alford wants the Bruins to be consistent and at the same level as last night every game, step one would be more consistent effort on defense.  There is no better symbol of this than Bryce.

(Special Thanks to Fox71 and DC Bruins for helping write this)