The media met with UCLA men’s basketball coach Steve Alford today, and as expected, all questions were pointed at the tournaments. Right away, Alford admitted they didn’t play very well in the Pac 12 Tournament (no kidding), and he didn’t blame fatigue, but rather, a mental breakdown on the team. He pointed out that they had played and won nine in a row, and meeting up with the same teams again posed a problem for the team mentally. This has to say something about coaching—while you’re drawing up plays and teaching schematics, aren’t you supposed to prepare your team mentally?
When questioned about the upcoming game against Kent State, he spoke about the health of the team and said they are on an upswing and trying to get as much rest as possible before Thursday’s game. He said Isaac Hamilton played well in the Pac 12 Tournament, as well as Thomas Welsh and Ike Anigbogu, but admitted the guards didn’t play well. There was a lack of urgency that he expects to return this week.
With “instant elimination” looming, he said the team understands the implications of the necessity to win and that point really hit home in the Pac 12 Tournament. With so many experiencing it for the first time (four of the eight in rotation), the senior leadership will have to guide the newer players through the Big Dance, and also said they may be the last game tipping off on Thursday. The team has been spending the entire season gearing up for this and their urgency and efforts are focused on the task at hand (not to take anything away from the Pac 12 Tournament). One may ask—were they looking ahead to the NCAA Tournament, and subsequently blew off the Pac 12 Tournament?
The media wanted to know what changes they were going to make in managing the team during the NCAA Tournament, and Alford said absolutely nothing in order to maintain consistency. When asked about losing in the first round two other times when his team was a three seed, he basically said everything that could go wrong did. They didn’t play well, and this is a different team that needs to just get back to the “fun” and do what they know they can do. Last year at this time they weren’t playing, and now they’re one of the top teams in the tournament.
Jim Hill asked about closing out the “noise” of the media, and Alford said they discussed that very thing last night. He put the AP Top 10 up in front of the team and explained UCLA’s #8 ranking and how someone had picked every school in the top ten at one point to win the tournament. He said, “the noise isn’t going to pick who wins this tournament”.
Here is the full video, courtesy of UCLA Athletics:
And here is Isaac Hamilton, Aaron Holiday, and Thomas Welsh, Courtesy of UCLA Athletics: