There is so much to say about the epic beat down put on UCLA by Kentucky. But it is everywhere. However, few are asking the real questions that need to be asked.
The "positive spin" is the Kentucky game is just one loss in the loss column. One that everyone before the season expected. The spin goes yeah it was worse than expected but this is a once in a lifetime Kentucky team and look what they did to Kansas? We are not in this alone.
The reality is much starker for what this means and it is not about this game. First by the numbers (from various sources):
- 7. UCLA tied lowest point total in a season for a half with Savanah State in the first half.
- 0-20, the shooting numbers in the first half for the guards. UCLA did not make a single jump shot in the first half.
- 24 points. Kentucky scored 24 points before UCLA finally scored.
- Second worst loss in UCLA history, next to Maples Massacre in 1997.
- 7. Lowest point total ever in a half for UCLA.
- 8%. This was not a case of Kentucky shooting lights out as they shot less than 46% in the first half. This was defensive domination as UCLA shot 8% in the first half.
- In four losses, UCLA point guard Bryce Alford has more turnovers than assists. In the Kentucky game UCLA's three guards had more turnovers than assists.
- In four losses, UCLA has a total of 35 assists, averaging less than double digit assists as a team for those games.
UCLA's bench had one basket from players on scholarship. But that is not the problem.
Bryce is not a point guard at this level and Isaac Hamilton is not a point guard at any level. That is a bigger problem.
However, the biggest problem is UCLA has no set offense. I wrote here, my biggest worry after the Gonzaga loss was the offense. How the heck are we going to score? Kentucky answered the question; we can't score unless we have superior talent. Norman Powell could not do his one-on-one thing against Kentucky. Isaac and Bryce could not do anything in the first half when it mattered.
Last year at times the offense was fun to watch. That looks entirely to be a product of Kyle Anderson now. UCLA has no set offense.
Under Howland UCLA ran an arguably too controlled set offense which you will hear Bill Walton rant and rave about. There are no controls under Steve Alford. This can work a bit when you have a very good point guard as Lavin did with Baron Davis and Earl Watson.
However, Bryce is not a point guard and realistically he has no backup.
This is on Steve Alford.
- Last year there was at least question about Bryce as a point guard. Both Zach Lavine and Kyle Anderson told Steve Alford they were going to leave to the NBA. Why didn't UCLA recruit someone as a point guard? At a minimum there needed to be a backup point guard.
- Even a casual fan can realize that Isaac Hamilton is not and never will be a point guard. I cannot believe that UCLA basketball coaches could not figure this out. At the end of the Kentucky game, Powell was helping bring the ball up.
- As Steve Alford said during the post-game, there needs to be more passing. Alford has said his motion offense can work without a point guard. So far there is no evidence of an offense. To be clear the lack of an offense is just not on Bryce it is also on Norman Powell and Isaac Hamilton who force way too many bad shots.
- The failure to recruit a guard for the bench makes it difficult to discipline the three players above for taking bad shots. The drop off to the bench is huge. Arguably UCLA has no guards on its bench with small forward Noah Allen forced to play guard.
- It is nice UCLA beat all the cupcakes. But an opportunity was missed to develop the bench a bit and/or discipline the starting guards. Instead of relying on pure talent to beat the cupcakes UCLA should have developed a set offense (turned down some chances to run to practice an offense) and/or played the bench more minutes to discipline the starters. The Kentucky game is not the time to try the Welsh-Parker lineup for the first time.
The question that needs to be asked of Steve Alford is what is he going to do to fix the offense? UCLA does not have enough talent to win games solely on individual effort against PAC 12 level teams let alone Kentucky.
Some serious questions have to be raised again about the hiring of Steve Alford and the subsequent decisions related to that.
- Steve Alford best skill as New Mexico's coach was taking disgruntled players and making them into good college players. For example, ex-UCLA player Drew Gordon thrived under Alford at New Mexico. That does not seem like a skill necessary or even wanted for UCLA. UCLA should get that level of player (Kevon Looney) without having to take the baggage.
- Guerrero hired Alford for his offense prowess and ability to bring more exciting basketball to Los Angeles. Alford was far from a "ShowTime" style coach in his past and relied more on defense and castoffs for his wins. To Alford's credit last year he put together an exciting offense product with a Ben Howland team. But right now asking Alford to be offense-first looks like putting a square peg in a round hole.
- Howland in part was rightly fired for not recruiting well in California. So far Alford has not exactly lit the world afire with his best recruit coming from Wisconsin. His failures to recruit a bench or point guard are very worrisome.
- Howland and Lavin in part before him were fired for missing or not making the NCAA tournament on a yearly basis. Right now, I do not think this is a NCAA tournament despite a weak PAC 12. UW just beat Oklahoma and looks to be far ahead of UCLA. UCLA NIT is not going to cut it.
- By allowing UCLA to schedule some tough games such as Kentucky the next two years Guerrero ends a criticism of Howland for playing a weak non-conference schedule. However, as of this writing, it seems likely UCLA may be in worse shape next year for Kentucky and other tough games as Kevon Looney and Norman Powell are going pro after this season. Has Guerrero set up UCLA for an annual embarrassment on national television?
- Why did Steve Alford get an extension to his already ridiculous contract?
I think this is a huge concern going forward because you can improve defense simply with effort. To learn a set offense takes practice and time. There was none and this is one game away from the PAC 12.
This is poorly coached team running an AAU offense and as such this does not look like an NCAA tournament team. Mr. Guerrero what do you say to that?