UCLA basketball is on many preseasons basketball top 20 lists. UCLA is also on many experts most overrated lists. While this may seem a contradiction. It is easy to explain. Everybody agrees that UCLA has the talent to be an elite team next year. However, they disagree whether Steve Alford can coach. There has rarely been an easier season to summarize before the season. UCLA should have an elite season; will Steve Alford get in the way? That's it.
A couple quotes. As one of the voters in the Pac-12 media poll who picked UCLA to underachieve put it:
5. UCLA - I'm sure volume-shooting senior Bryce Alford will have no problem giving up primary possession of the rock and shots to talented freshman Lonzo Ball. And Isaac Hamilton. And Aaron Holiday.
That writer doubts that Steve Alford can maximize the talent as he will play the least athletic and worst on defense of the four the most minutes. And give him the most shots. On the other side is the reason why UCLA should have an elite season:
UCLA returns their three starting guards from a year ago in Bryce Alford, Isaac Hamilton, and Aaron Holiday who combined to average more than 43 points and 12 assists per game. Add in one of the top recruits in the country, 6-5 point guard Lonzo Ball, along with reserve shooting guard and former top 100 recruit Prince Ali, and the Bruins have incredible skill and depth in their backcourt.
Steve Alford faces the challenge of keeping all of those guys happy and finding enough minutes for all five players.
This should be a happy problem. UCLA has depth at guard. However, the doubts remain on three things, whether the minutes will be allocated properly, whether the shots will be allocated properly, and whether the point guard duties will be allocated properly.
I will defend Steve Alford on the latter. I think Bryce plays off the ball this season. On the first two, while I want the best for UCLA, I remain pessimistic. Will Steve Alford rein in his 38% shooting son for the better overall shooters on the team? Will Bryce's minutes get reduced when defense is needed?
The key for all UCLA Bruins fans to remember is that this is an extremely talented team with great potential. This is also a team that underachieved last year. Steve Alford must have an elite season. If he adds to the past two seasons of underachievement, he must be fired.
Ranked 20th in the USA Today preseason coaches poll, UCLA is the only school that received votes that had a losing record a year ago. That was a massively underachieving team but one that returns three players who averaged double figures, including senior guard Bryce Alford, son of coach Steve Alford.
Most important, though, is what the Bruins are adding—namely, 5-star prospects Ike Anigbogu, Lonzo Ball and T.J. Leaf. Ball is considered anNBA lottery pick by DraftExpress and is believed by many to be the key to UCLA's return to the top tier of the Pac-12 after finishing near the bottom last season.
For me this is a win-win season as long as the fans keep that in mind that this is a season with only one question mark: Steve Alford. And the answer should either silence the critics or finally get AD Dan Guerrero to act. If Steve Alford has an elite season, he should stay. If he underachieves, he must go.