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UCLA Basketball News Roundup of a “Sickening” Loss

One coach has a game plan. Another throws the players under the bus.

CSU Fullerton v UCLA
Look in the mirror coach, not at your players.
Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images

In all the years of doing these news roundup for the first time I am going to lead with an opposing coach’s quote. Cal State Fullerton Titans’ head coach Dedrique Taylor said in the Daily News:

“I liked our shot selection. We had an emphasis on paint-touch, in-rhythm shots and our group bought into that,” Fullerton coach Dedrique Taylor said. “We were consistent in that. Very few came from a first-side shot. Everything was paint-touch, in rhythm 3s. We were consistent, even when things weren’t going our way, it was about the process of getting a good shot, not taking and making a bad shot.”

Credit to Coach Taylor, he had a game plan, they executed it and beat the UCLA Bruins, 77-74. Now, let’s compare that to Mick Cronin’s postgame comments (emphasis added):

The message is really irrelevant. I’ve given them the same—I didn’t change. I didn’t change when I got here as a coach. It’s not like I forgot how to coach defense. At some point, you’ve got to keep five guys out there. Problem is, you’re playing guys who play. You’ve got try to find five guys that can get a stop. My message to them was it’s the same that it’s been: I knew this was coming. People just think, well, you’re on the road, or it’s your opponent. Our execution—here’s our problem in a nutshell: until we realize that the only reason teams do things like defend, really execute their plays, is because they have humility. You have humility. I’ve talked about it before and I talked about it over the holiday break. We need to get some humility, is my opinion. Some of its youth, but some of it is arrogance for no reason. Or ego for no reason. I told them our fate isn’t going to change until we get some humility. Cool does not win. You’ve got to be willing to do the uncomfortable things that go into winning and if all you’re worried about is getting 12 points regardless of the outcome for our team, it’s going to continue.

Sorry, Mick. I don’t buy it. With maybe one or two exceptions, this team is not an arrogant or selfish bunch. Also, you have eleven guys who are roughly equal. Bench those who lack humility. Cronin I think it is you who are sounding like a millennial making excuses and whining. Gary Parish of CBS has it right, at least in part (emphasis added):

Before I go any further, let me make one thing clear: UCLA should never lose to Cal State Fullerton under any circumstances -- especially as a 15-point favorite like UCLA was in this game, and especially when Cal State Fullerton is ranked 284th at KenPom. There’s no way to spin this positive; that was an awful loss. In fact, before Saturday, UCLA had never lost to a school that finished lower than 210th in the KenPom era that now spans 19 seasons. So this wasn’t just an awful loss. This was a historically bad loss for UCLA.

But, then he goes on to be wrong, again in part, and make an excuse:

But it’s also a historically bad roster for UCLA.

As evidence, consider this: UCLA’s current roster is the first UCLA roster devoid of at least one McDonald’s All-American since the award was unveiled in 1977 -- which means Mick Cronin will be the first UCLA coach in more than four decades to complete a season without at least one McDonald’s All-American. That’s an incredible fact and among the reasons UCLA began this season ranked 106th at KenPom. If you’re curious, the Bruins are currently 128th. So they’re worse than they were projected to be, sure. But not by much, according to the numbers.

I don’t buy it. Put it this way, would Coach Taylor trade Cronin rosters straight up?

Look, I was not expecting to beat Michigan State or North Carolina this year. Parish’s comments are applicable in those cases. This was going to be a down year, but an historically awful year? This loss was to Cal State Fullerton and a BAD Fullerton team. And here is the thing, Coach Taylor did a good job. He doubled Hill every time he got the ball. He overplayed Smith to his right every time he drove. We had no answers other than to barf a different lineup on the court. Coach Taylor executed a plan on defense and offense. He badly OUT-COACHED Cronin. Meanwhile, Thuc Nhi Nguyen writes in the LA Times:

Players helped for no reason, Cronin said. They didn’t stay in front of opponents, gambled off shooters on the wing at the end of the shot clock and used zone defense as an excuse to take a rest. Cronin said he asked players in the locker room when they would finally challenge each other.

Mick, this is the last game of non-conference play and this has happened every game. It is YOUR job to correct it. Stop blaming the players. Cronin gets the last word on something we can all agree on:

Like I said, I apologize to people who took their time out of their Saturday over the holidays and paid to come and watch this, our defensive efforts. It’s beyond sickening. It’s beyond sickening. Sickening at the highest level. I don’t know how else to describe it to you.

On that, we can agree. It is your job to fix it and not make excuses.

Go Bruins.