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UCLA Basketball: Miller not the Only Pac-12 Coach in Trouble as Bruins Lose on the Road Again

UCLA loses 80-76 to Colorado and will miss NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years.

NCAA Basketball: UCLA at Colorado
Often times defenseless UCLA watches Colorado shoot. As a result they will be watching the NCAA tourney.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Steve Alford-led Bruins played themselves out of the NCAA tournament this weekend by going 0-2 on the Mountain road trip. This should not be a surprise but here are a few key numbers:

  • In years without Lonzo Ball, Steve Alford is 2-14 in the second game of road trip pairs. The two wins came over teams with losing records. UCLA is so bad that they even once lost to Washington State in a second game for Washington State’s only Pac-12 conference win two years ago.
  • Most experts agree UCLA must win the Pac-12 Tournament to make the NCAA tournament. This will mark the second time in three years Steve Alford has failed to make the Big Dance.
  • Colorado swept UCLA this season. For the record, Colorado has ONE Pac-12 road win this season and it was against UCLA.

Alford Must Go

Steve Alford has to be fired. He can’t coach at the UCLA level if, for no other reason, he can’t win on the road without a Lonzo Ball.

Today’s loss highlighted some of Alford’s flaws as a coach. Aaron Holiday was tired, but UCLA had no choice but to play him. Holiday and the other star Thomas Welsh went 8-27 for the game. Game over. A tired Holiday went out with UCLA trailing 19-20 with nine minutes left in the first half. Colorado scored a three and Hands promptly made a terrible cross court pass that was intercepted (one of three ugly turnovers by Hands). Holiday came back. Alford did not even wait til the under 8. UCLA has no backup point guard and, if Holiday is off, the Bruins are toast.

Then, reason number two to fire Alford after this game is the fact that, for the first time all season, UCLA went to a an ultra-big lineup of Holiday, Kris Wilkes, Chris Smith, GG Goloman, and Welsh in the first half when both teams were only shooting threes. In fact, the last seven baskets in the first half were threes. Colorado went 10-20 from three in the first half and only 4-10 from two. What the heck, Steve? You play the big lineup for the first time all year in the next to last game which is a three-point fest?!?

The first half had three key factors.

1. UCLA had the momentum early. Holiday scored and was dominating before he received a technical foul for mouthing off. Colorado made the free throws and went on a run and never looked back.

2. Aaron Holiday had a strange half. He looked like he had tired legs so Alford took him out around the nine minute mark. Hands immediately made an ugly turnover and UCLA gave up a three. Alford decided a tired Holiday was better than no Holiday. Holiday took all of two possessions off.

3 The first half was a three-point shooting contest. Good news: UCLA was 8-14. Bad news: Colorado was 10-20. They were almost all open looks and Colorado led 45-36 at half. Significantly, Colorado scoring 45 points was unusual.

The second half looked grim as well. Then, UCLA played some defense. UCLA shut out the Buffs for 5 minutes and took the lead, 56-54, with a little over 8 minutes left on an Alex O rebound basket after being down 10. With 7:42 left, Colorado was 4-18 for the half .

But that was it. UCLA came apart. Colorado went on an 17-1 run. The lead was back and bigger. UCLA made a furious late rally, but it was too little too late.

Three takeaways

1. The other guys did their part on offense. Wilkes hit some big shots and finished with 20. Wilkes and GG got us a lead in the second half in the run were we played defense. Prince Ali hit a season high in three-pointers and did not make any obvious mistakes. The player of the game for UCLA is probably Prince Ali, who also had some nice rebounds and no turnovers.

2. Defense. You need to defend for 40 minutes and not just hope that the other team misses a wide open a three. For years, Alford’s defense has given open threes. It works occasionally, but it also allows average three-point shooting teams like Colorado to beat you twice in a season. This complete failure to defend the three-point line or for larges parts of a game is the third reason to fire Alford as Colorado made a season-high 14 three-pointers against UCLA.

3. NIT? Our NCAA tourney hopes now depend on winning the Pac-12 tournament. That’s not good for a team that has no backup point guard. Holiday can’t play every minute of Pac-12 Tourney effectively.

For me to say Go Bruins, it is obvious we need to Fire Alford!